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By Jim Gerland and Mark Winer

Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!


Solving Computing Problems Using the Internet
May 2, 1996

We've been in the computer support business for quite a few years. Traditionally, when people have asked us for answers to their computer problems we've had a couple of options: check reference books or manuals, call technical support lines, or the best way, ask someone who knows. Today, we can use the Internet as another source of technical information. In many cases, it's even quicker than traditional methods.

Many computer companies have created World Wide Web sites on the Internet. In addition to sales information many of these sites also have product support sections. These are very handy when you come across a troublesome problem like trying to configure that new PC system unit with your old monitor. You can access bug fixes, get updated drivers or just find out general information about your system and the company that makes it.

Here's a list of some of the major hardware companies that have Internet sites: IBM (www.ibm.com); Compaq (www.compaq.com); Dell (www.dell.com); Gateway (www.gw2k.com); Intel (www.intel.com); Apple (www.apple.com); Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com); Hayes (www.hayes.com).

You may want to check out your operating system manufacturer for the latest update of system software or for patches/bug fixes for your system. Many companies release software without knowing that it will work with every different piece of hardware and software. If you're having compatibility problems, check the company's Web site to get timely news about patches or bug fixes. The Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) web site is excellent and one you'll want to visit for information about Windows, Windows 95 and their complete set of Internet and applications software.

We all know that not all application software works properly with all hardware and operating systems. Check out some of these sites for solutions about running your software applications: Lotus (www.lotus.com); WordPerfect (www.wordperfect.com); Novell (www.novell.com).

If you're a newcomer to the Internet you may be a bit shell-shocked. One of the first sites you should check out is the World Wide Web FAQ (www.boutell.com/faq/). If you have a question, chances are that you'll find an answer here. Another site you should check out is Webreference (www.webreference.com). It has articles, resources and links. The NCSA home page (www.nsca.uiuc.edu) also has lots of information and resources for surfing the Web. From the folks who invented Mosaic, this site is great for answers and links to Web-related questions. If you're one of the millions who are using Netscape, check out the on-line magazine, Netscape World (www.netscapeworld.com), published by Web Publishing Inc., an IDG Communications company, to hone your surfing skills.

We've found the ISP List (www.thelist.com) a useful site for getting information about Internet Service Providers. If you're looking for the Web site for your provider or just considering changing your provider we recommend looking here. The ISP List gives a brief description of services along with companies' phone number and URL. It's especially nice in that you can search by country or company name.

Another great source for answers to general questions is the on-line versions of the popular computer magazines. These magazines often have support sections which can give you answers to your pesky problems. Try the Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section of these magazines: PC World (www.pcworld.com); PC Week (www.pcweek.com); Mac World (www.macworld.com); Byte (www.byte.com); WebWeek (www.webweek.com); InfoWorld (www.infoworld.com).

There are other services on the Internet available to answer your questions. One that we have found helpful is the Free Computer Help site (www.balfer.com). Here you can ask any and all computer related questions including what to buy, how to set it up, and how to deal with any of those unresolved computer problems. You submit your questions via email and receive answers within 24 hours; their FAQ section is also extensive.

Many universities and colleges have support pages which answer questions related not only to their particular systems, but include general computing answers. For example, the University at Buffalo Computing Help Desk (ubit.buffalo.edu) has links to many useful resources. Likewise, the Buffalo Free-Net Help Desk (bfn.org/help/) may also be of assistance in providing help for your computing queries. In general, there's a good chance you can get information about your particular computer problem on the Internet. If you don't have the address of the company in question, try one of these search engines: Alta Vista (altavista.digital.com), Excite (www.excite.com), Lycos (www.lycos.com), Infoseek (guide.infoseek.com), Webcrawler (www.webcrawler.com). Then again, you could always try to guess the URL!

Of course we haven't overlooked the fact that if you can't get your hardware, software or modem to work you can't use the Internet for help. But then that's what friends and co-workers are for!

We look forward to the email and faxes we get from you, so don't stop sending them in. Let us know what's going on in the WNY computing community. You can email us, edge@edgeglobal.com , or fax us, (716) 853-1350 and tell us what you think.