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It's Never Done That Before 194

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-did-that-get-in-there dept.
Graeme Williams writes "I really need something that will help me diagnose and fix problems with Windows PCs. I provide occasional support for more than a dozen PCs at my local church, as well as the systems at home, and those that arrive in the wake of my children. I don't do it regularly enough to have a clear model of how I should go about it. I really wanted It's Never Done That Before to provide that clear model, but unfortunately I was disappointed." Read the rest of Graeme's review.
It's Never Done That Before / A Guide to Troubleshooting Windows XP
author John Ross
pages xix + 263
publisher No Starch Press
rating 3
reviewer Graeme Williams
ISBN 1-59327-139-5
summary Not organized well enough to help in a real crisis


After reading It's Never Done That Before, I've got a pretty good idea of what I'm looking for in a book about PC repairs. The first part of my ideal book would provide background information about how a PC works. For example, if you wanted to diagnose a problem that occurred during booting, it would help to know what was involved in the boot process, from the power and power supply to the BIOS and MBR and ultimately to Windows, the registry and the desktop.

The second part of my ideal book would explain basic techniques, such as how to change your BIOS settings. These techniques would form a library which could be referred to later in the book without further explanation. The third part of the book would explain things you could do before disaster strikes, such as backing up your data, and writing down your network configuration parameters, and most importantly, making sure you can actually follow the recovery procedures you'll need when disaster does strike. If you can't change BIOS settings when your machine is stable, you're certainly not going to be able to do it when you're terrified that a hard drive failure has lost Auntie Edna and Uncle Norman's pictures. My recommendation would be to permanently set your BIOS boot settings so that your system looks for a boot CD before booting from disk, but if the extra delay bothers you, you can always change it back. At least you'll know what to do.

Evaluating It's Never Done That Before against my ideal, the real book does better on content than it does on organization. For example, it has a useful chapter on what you can do before disaster strikes, and it has a pretty clear explanation of how to change BIOS settings, but they're not in the same place.

The fourth and final part of my ideal book would explain how to diagnose and repair problems. One of the reasons this isn't trivial is that a book should necessarily focus on the most common problems, but has to leave open the possibility that something unlikely is happening. One of the problems I have with my laptop at work is that when I eat lunch at my desk, the touchpad will interpret dropped crumbs as a continual touch, which immediately makes the cursor uncontrollable. Touchpads are not mentioned in It's Never Done That Before – but that's not necessarily an issue. Many more people will, say, have a hard drive failure than will have crumbs on the touchpad, and the book has plenty of material on hard drive failures. But too much of the book assumes you know what the problem is, instead of systematically going through possibilities – and leaving open the possibility that something odd or unlikely is happening.

One of my systems at home is an old hand-me-down desktop from my son. He had installed a firewire card, which remains, and a sound card, which he removed. I put in a new disk, which I partitioned as a dual-boot Linux and Windows XP system, and attached a external firewire drive. The first problem I noticed was that when Linux boots, it changes the BIOS to disable on-board sound. Perhaps this is some kind of "phantom limb syndrome" for the missing sound card? Some time ago, the firewire card became less reliable – at least, if the drive is on, Windows will black screen during boot. This can be avoided by leaving the drive off until Windows has settled down after booting. Lately, when Windows boots it has started to reset the network file sharing settings for the external drive. I fear that the Windows system on this machine is disintegrating, perhaps in anticipation of Vista.

It's not that It's Never Done That Before doesn't cover any of these areas. For example, it has a considerable amount of material on boot problems, including black screens. The problem is that it's not organized as a fault tree, where you start with no knowledge other than the immediate symptoms and proceed to collect data and rule out possibilities until you're left with the precise cause. One of the benefits of doing this carefully is that you won't prematurely decide whether the cause is hardware or software. Unfortunately, It's Never Done That Before just isn't organized this way.

The lack of organization also manifests itself as unnecessary and sometimes irritating repetition. For example, you get to the Windows Advanced Options menu by pressing F8 during startup. On page 46, the instructions are "When the results of the POST [power on self test] appear on the screen, press the F8 key until the Windows Advanced Options menu appears". On page 48, the instructions are to "immediately press F8 a few times" POST is not mentioned. On page 60, the instructions are to "press the F8 key several times".

The book just isn't clear about how a PC connects to the Internet and how that can fail. One indication is that the material is split between Chapter 13, "Internet Connection Problems" and Chapter 15, "Dealing with Hardware Problems", when there's no way you can know a priori whether a problem is hardware or software. Or for that matter whether the problem is yours or your ISP's.

Figure 13-3 on page 147 is the first of two diagrams related to Internet connectivity. The diagram shows something called a Wide Area Network which you connect to that is separate from the Internet Cloud. I suppose this might refer to the BGP AS you're connected to, but that hardly matters to most people. And having introduced the idea that you're connected to some equipment at your ISP, the diagram doesn't make clear that if you're directly connected to the Internet (without a router), your PC gets an IP address from the ISP's DHCP server, but if you're connected via a router, the PC gets its address from the router, and the router gets its address from the ISP. How do you recognize when your PC hasn't got an IP address from the appropriate DHCP server? This is needlessly hard in Windows XP, because the OS "helpfully" defaults to something plausible and wrong, but the book offers no help in digging you out of this one.

Figure 15-1 on page 169 includes a DSLAM (a piece of equipment at the local telephone company), which is a fascinating detail, but not really something you need to know even if you have a DSL connection. At least in the US, the key thing to know is that DSL wiring problems belong to one part of the telephone company (because it's the same wiring as your telephone) but Internet problems belong to a different part. If you live in the inner city, you're quite likely to have wiring problems (based on my experience with a sample of two and a failure rate approaching one per year), but if you have a problem with your line and you're talking to the wrong group within the telephone company you'll be rebooting your PC and checking network settings until you're blue in the face.

The popularity of wireless LANs has introduced a whole new set of problems. At home, my POSSLQ uses a laptop with a wireless PCMCIA card. As the the wireless router got older, the wireless connection on the laptop seemed to get less and less reliable. After avoiding the problem for a while, I stumbled across the length argument on the ping command, and discovered that the packet loss rate depended on the packet length. I adjusted the MTU and things immediately got a lot better. It's Never Done That Before ignores ping in favor of traceroute (which I find confusing for basic connectivity problems) and so would never solve this problem.

Even a simple LAN requires several systems to be up and communicating in order to connect to the Internet. A short time ago I upgraded the wireless router in my home from 802.11b to 802.11g. By systematically going though all the incorrect combinations first, I was able to verify that the procedure given in the router manual was both necessary and sufficient: power off the cable modem, router and PC, and power up the cable modem, router and PC in that order. I also support a local church with a local area network of about a dozen computers, which seems to have an endemic problem with IP address conflicts. In this case, I leave the PCs on and power cycle the router. These rules and especially the reasoning behind them aren't included in It's Never Done That Before.

I'm a little mystified why the author doesn't recommend making a live CD of your favorite Linux distro. If you have a problem that prevents Windows from booting, it's an easy way to connect to the Internet to look for resources. It's also an easy way to confirm more serious problems. I recently had a computer with a motherboard problem go into a reboot loop with a live CD, which was sort of terrifying, but immediately ruled out Windows as the source of the problem

I guess it's clear by now that I don't like It's Never Done That Before. There's a lot of information in the book which many people may find very useful in understanding more about how their PC works and how it fails. The book may very well help people with simple problems. However, the experience I've had fixing PC problems suggests to me that the book is not structured well enough to lead you through the process of diagnosing and repairing an unknown failure."


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It's Never Done That Before

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  • Don't worry (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    it'll do it again when the review is reposted in 3-4 days.
    • Re:Don't worry (Score:3, Informative)

      by daskinil (991205)
      #1 way to fix problems i would think www.google.com, for a list of comprehensive problems - with windows you just can't identify the problem all the time. Just put n a phrase consisely describing the problem and it'll see if anyone else has had a problem. however i'm not sure how this works for windows, i mostly run linux and use a compination of google searches, forum searches, and wikipedia. A very important piece of information no book can cover is hardware specific problems. If you believe your hard d
  • by Durrill (908003) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:15PM (#15875932)
    I was once looking for something similar and instead came across the book (Format C, Install Linux) which saved my life!

    /sarcasm
  • by Dareth (47614) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:16PM (#15875938)
    Buy my book, but do not open it right away. Put it on a shelf somewhere, or even in a cardboard box. Go use,break,fix, work on computers for about 3 to 5 years, then come get the book, if you can find it.

    You will find the book to be completely worthless, same as if you had read it the first day you got it. But it will not matter, because more than likely the experience you got from owning it, and the years of working with computers will have given you the best "experience" possible.

    • by andrewman327 (635952) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:24PM (#15875992) Homepage Journal
      I agree that experience is the best solution. I troubleshoot lots of computers and I have certain tools based on my own experience. I carry memory key full of anti spyware software, an Ubuntu Live CD, a small cheap circuit tester, and other things depending on the need. There is a reason that A+ textbooks are so large: there is an awful lot to learn! You cannot hope the learn everything you need to know through one book. As you research different computer problems, you will learn more about those problems. Just remember to keep an open mind, look things up, and stay grounded when working on the guts of a computer.
      • And Take Notes! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dareth (47614)
        Whenever you work on computers, it does not hurt to take notes of interesting problems/solutions. This is even more true if you are working on Linux boxes and still a relative newbie. While relearning is sometimes necessary, the time to do it is not when you have a dead/dying machine to get back up.

        Document what you do, and later with a little more experience under your belt, go back and see if you can improve upon what you did before.

        And for those of you who are utter genious and have excellent memory, j
      • I agree. It sounds like he needs a little more experience. Maybe just grazing PC tech reading or an A+ book as well.

        For me, I love having an inexpensive PowMax power supply tester so I can reduce my guessing on whether that is causing anomalies. Then, a download of the Ultimate Boot CD ISO for a number of tests. I always run a few passes of memtest in particular with all new memory. And, yes, a copy of an Ubuntu live disk (or Knoppix in my case). Do Windows people realize that there is a free bare-met
    • My perception of what the reviewer wanted was a book on How to Troubleshoot.

      Maybe he didn't mean it this way, but it seemed that what he wanted the book to do was teach him basic critical thinking and troubleshooting skills. If anyone knows of such a book, please let me know.

      (P.S. I already have pre-algebra through graduate math texts, they don't count.)
      • Despite many objections, said textbooks are not worthless. I have a few myself, that I keep around for various things. A desk that is not quite level, needing to site in a scope on a rifle, mounting motherboard you do not have the right case for... all good uses of these books.

        Though I have to admit, as I get older, sometimes I find math a bit more intersting than when I was required to take the courses. If I had to take them again, doubt I would do it voluntarily, I might well learn more the second ( ok
    • I was just about to post this. First of all, it's true that in most topics, fixing computers included, there's no substitute for experience. But especially when it comes to troubleshooting Windows.

      I'm not on a mission to bash Windows here, but I've been fixing Microsoft Windows systems since Windows 3.1, and there's just no sense in it. A service pack might change where settings are located. The registry is a mess if you're looking for a specific setting. And in Windows, more than any OS I've ever dea

      • I would often try to fix without the format.. but more often than not, that's where I'd end up. I didn't want to waste 5 hours scouring the registry when the customer wouldn't pay for that time either.

        Wipe it, put on AVG, Netscape and Ad-aware and most times I'd never see the customer again unless they wanted an upgrade. They'd tell all their friends and I was busy.

        Hardware problems were pretty easy to fix after a bit of experience. The most challenging lesson I had to learn was with modems. I'd get the

        • Well, if you're a pro, you start developing techniques to speed trouble-shooting and resolution. Often, you'll get some sort of imaging technique (that will include a wipe/reinstall) that will be your best bet in many situations, especially if you're working on similar configs all the time.

          However, if you want to learn how to fix computers, reformatting isn't the advisable route. All you'll learn is how to reinstall Windows. Also, if you learn more, you'll find that you can fix more of the problems you

    • Truth be told, I learned 95% of what I know about computers from hands on at a local computer store. The other 5% was me trying to get games to play on a old POS computer which I slowly upgraded over time.

      The unique benefit of working at a small shop computer repair shop is that you get all sorts of computers coming in with all of them having mostly different problems. One of the games I loved to play is (and our motto of the store was) "Never format!"

      Believe it or not, many windows problems can be solved b
    • And to add to what you said (and I don't understand why they marked you as a troll) is that people often ask me what books I used to study or what classes I took and I often shock the people that ask by telling me "I never took a class on computer in my entire life nor do I read books on them!" (Ok... I took intro to C++ and Unix basics in college but we are talking about windows and reparing home PCs not programming)

      To learn computers, you need to get one and mess with it without fear of breaking and again
  • by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:18PM (#15875951) Homepage
    [url=http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/]BartPE[/url] is the Windows equivalent, pretty nifty. Although something like Knoppix is infinitely more useful, BartPE is still neat.
  • Someone who basically knows what they are doing doesn't like a book targeted at the clueless masses. Well color me surprised.
  • Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:21PM (#15875973) Homepage Journal
    I'm a little mystified why the author doesn't recommend making a live CD of your favorite Linux distro.
    I'm just guessing, here, but that might be because it's "A Guide to Troubleshooting Windows XP." Cheezy "lol, Linux" replies to Windows problems are normal here on Slashdot, but they're not as common in print media these days.
    • I think (s)he meant so you can boot up your linux CD and diagnose/fix problems with windows.

      It's a handy thing to have when Windows refuses to boot even into safe mode.
    • Re:Linux (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hclyff (925743)
      Maybe if you read just a sentence further, you would find out that the Linux CD was meant to help boot the system in case of Windows refusing to start at all (and maybe twiddle with system from there). Not as a replacement of Windows. I do this often even in cases of obvious hardware problems, because Linux often runs (be it with complains) in cases when Windows refuses to.
    • Perhaps he should go into PE, bartpe and the like are easy to setup and still a windows envirnment for fixing/testing windows.
    • And not reading is normal on Slashdot, too, because if you would have read the next two sentences, you would have seen the reason for his suggestion. Yes, the book is about Windows XP, but since it also covers problems that can occur before Windows even loads, or that cause Windows to not load, having another environment handy would be a Good Thing. I'm unable to use the installed OS on about 1/4 of the machines I fix and bootable CDs often come in handy. Since Windows is neither a) freely redistributable o
  • by Ponga (934481)
    I really need something that will help me diagnose and fix problems with Windows PCs...

    ...I'm sorry, what is it that you were saying? Uhh, a call just came in, I've gotta go. :/
  • I really need something that will help me diagnose and fix problems with Windows PCs.

    Just take the red pill: install an open-source OS. The answers will be revealead to you :P
  • by saboola (655522) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:25PM (#15876000)
    I need a It's Never Done That Before: Bodily Functions. I can't go into detail.
  • by David Horn (772985) <davidNO@SPAMpocketgamer.org> on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:28PM (#15876017) Homepage
    "I provide occasional support for more than a dozen PCs at my local church"

    Can't you just leave them switched on overnight and let God take care of things?

    I'm SO going to get flamed for this... ;-)
  • From the article:

    Evaluating It's Never Done That Before against my ideal, the real book does better on content than it does on organization. For example, it has a useful chapter on what you can do before disaster strikes, and it has a pretty clear explanation of how to change BIOS settings, but they're not in the same place.

    Not in the same place?!? Aren't these two different topics? Yes, it helps to know how to change BIOS settings when doing disaster prevention, but why would it logically be in this chap

    • Yeah, that stuck me as wacky, too. "The book isn't well organized because it doesn't mix everything I might want to see all in the same place." is using some definition of 'organized' that's rather different from my own....
    • Not in the same place?!? Aren't these two different topics? Yes, it helps to know how to change BIOS settings when doing disaster prevention, but why would it logically be in this chapter?

      Based on some of the text from the review, I think the article writer's chain of thought was something like:
      1) Disaster recovery techniques are a good thing to practice before you have a disaster.
      2) Appropriate boot CDs are a very useful technique for determining whether the problem is hardware or software, or for allowing

  • The A+ Certification course at your local community college usually covers all but *nix.
  • "The lack of organization also manifests itself as unnecessary and sometimes irritating repetition."
  • by dedazo (737510)
    For those of us who wondered what the hell a POSSLQ is, I have good news [wikipedia.org]. And I say good news because initially I thought it was some sort of gay thing... sorry =)
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:41PM (#15876106)
    Practice, dear boy.

    It's the same with fixing Windows PCs also and it's not something a book can tell you.

    My advice to anyone with a Windows PC is to get it right from the word go. I still cannot believe PC vendors will sell a PC with a 300GB drive in it with just ONE (C:) partition - educate users to use D: and E: drives for their personal programs and files, then when Windows needs to be reinstalled, the process is less painful.

    Also keep a recent Ghost image to hand - then if a problem persists more than half-an-hour, just reinstall the whole thing within an additional half hour.

    And in the interim, install a virtually automated virus checker like AVG Free, put Spybot and Ad-Aware on, and make Firefox the default browser.

    • I suppose maybe it's just me, but I see (windows) computer users divided into more than just a rookies and experts. As a result, I find your advice to apply to only some people. Over the years, I find I went through phases of how I like to keep my windows system set up. First, I was a rookie - I installed everything to C, single partition, and then *bam* a drive died. The next system I built, I'm a little older and wiser perhaps, so I did what you said. First I went with a C + a separate D partition for d
    • My advice to anyone with a Windows PC is to get it right from the word go. I still cannot believe PC vendors will sell a PC with a 300GB drive in it with just ONE (C:) partition - educate users to use D: and E: drives for their personal programs and files, then when Windows needs to be reinstalled, the process is less painful.

      This is 100% useless. Reinstalling Windows != reformatting a partition. All that needs to be deleted is the Windows directory, and a few applications like Office that are too tig
      • You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Really.

        Partitioning of hard drives has been done for years on UNIX systems, for example - and rather than CAUSING drives to run out of space, it allows you to LIMIT how big your filesystems can actually get.

        I also seem to recall, somewhere around Windows 98 days, that even if you deleted your previous version of Windows, when you did a reinstall it would pick up a lot of unwanted settings from your previous installation. Whether or not this is the

        • You'd be well advised spending your time keeping yourself better informed rather than telling everyone else they're talking crap

          You tell me this but earlier you say you've never tested to see how Windows XP behaves when reinstalling. It's completely independent from other installs if you don't specify "upgrade".

          Besides, if your previous installation of Windows was trashed or suffering from some bad file errors, how do you KNOW it wasn't possibly caused by a disk problem?

          Er, if something in any way
          • It's completely independent from other installs if you don't specify "upgrade".

            Fine. Then I've learnt something new about XP.

            Er, if something in any way leads you to suspect the hard disk is faulty, then reformatting is no better than a no-format reinstall.

            I disagree with that statement completely. Why risk getting 99% through an install before finding out the disk is faulty than doing a much quicker format to do the check?

            The problem is, just because you told the user to use the D: drive for everyt

            • Why risk getting 99% through an install before finding out the disk is faulty than doing a much quicker format to do the check?

              CHKDSK /R will attempt to read every sector on the disk four times to find bad sectors. As far as I know, formatting won't yield any additional information.

              It just means that I can reasonably expect most of his files to be on D: but probably still need to double check C: first just to be safe.

              How can you be so sure you won't miss anything during the double check? The safest

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:42PM (#15876124) Homepage Journal
    One of the problems I have with my laptop at work is that when I eat lunch at my desk, the touchpad will interpret dropped crumbs as a continual touch, which immediately makes the cursor uncontrollable.


    Patient: Hey dod, my arm hurts when I do this (swings arm back and forth).
    Doctor: Then don't do that!

    Seriously, if the problem is that your touchpad doesn't like having crumbs on it, don't eat over your touchpad/keyboard. Problem solved!

    • I'm not sure this should by modded "funny"-- What part of "seriously" don't you mods understand?

      Seriously, I think it should be "insightful".

    • It's probably not a good idea to drop crumbs all over your laptop anyway. My wife was going through a keyboard a year until I got her to stop eating at her desk. This coincided with the moment when I got tired of buying her "nice" keyboards all the time and just picked up whatever they had on sale for $5 at Fry's. The damn thing lasted until she got a new machine.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It sounds like something you might hear in the same conversation as "It happens to a lot of men, honey!"

  • It sounds to me like what you need is a broad, basic grounding in computers, and that means A+ and N+ classes. To be honest I haven't taken the N+ class but I took the A+ one for easy credits and it turned out to actually be a pretty comprehensive look at computing. I suspect N+ is more or less the same.

    You could just buy the workbooks and study them, but to be honest, with the objections you in particular give to this book, I think actually taking the courses would be valuable.

    The simple fact is tha

    • I have both certs. Those certs are all about rote memorization of hardware specs, and network protocols, and the like.

      For example, which processors will fit into a Socket-7? Which level of the OSI model relates to routing? Which cables are rated for 1gbs data transfers?

      Arguably good stuff to know, but not very useful when faced with a difficult trouble-shooting problem. Something like "Teach Yourself Network trouble-shooting" might be better.
      • For example, which processors will fit into a Socket-7? Which level of the OSI model relates to routing? Which cables are rated for 1gbs data transfers?

        I recall that we covered some of the socketing stuff, but it wasn't on my final... and I didn't take N+. The point though is that knowing all this stuff helps you troubleshoot because you have some idea of how it works. (The OSI seven-layer-burrito is pretty useless, though.)

        I'd suggest anyone into computers as a living or lifestyle take assembly prog

  • I don't know if they still make them but I remember a place I was at for a while which was an IBM Business Partner or something like that had tons of troubleshooting manuals that let you go through the troubleshooting process one step at a time until you found the broken part and also explained either how to fix the problem or where to find further information on fixing it. And I have to say, in a way it was wonderful because all you had to do was go through all the steps until you had a working computer/pr
  • The extensively cross-referenced content of a true "how to fix it" encyclopedia may be desired, but the market for Windows PC's are a bit large for such an undertaking. Any author is going to approach with the "here's some background, check these categories" and leave you to discern the details.

    From TFA:"How something connects to the internet..." is by no means a simple process, when actually debugging connections.

    Overall, this review may be a bit negative because the reviewer did not have
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @04:17PM (#15876368) Homepage
    ...I think it was Computerworld, possibly Datamation... circa the early eighties.

    The caption was: "So, how are your company's PC users doing?"

    The picture shows a guy in a suit behind a desk. In front of him is some kind of PC which has more or less exploded; there is smoke coming from it, the top of the case has a jagged hole in it, there are fragments of something or other all over his desk.

    He is showing not a sign of emotion: just a dispassionate poker face. There is a thought balloon over his head, and he is thinking "It's never done that before." No exclamation point, no italics.

    IMHO it is very likely that the jacket illustration was, uh, "inspired" by that old Computerworld cartoon... which in my opinion, was funnier.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A book that would fit this guy's criteria would have to come in volumes, and be encyclopedia sized, and have updates every month to keep up to date. Its unrealistic.
    For example, he talks about BIOS settings, and "not in the same place." I don't know if he means the BIOS settings aren't in the same place as his BIOS, or they are in a different section of teh book than he'd like. BIOSes are all different, settings are probably in different places. You can't expect to have a rundown of every single BIOS layout
  • >> I really need something that will help me diagnose and fix problems with Windows PCs.

    Its easy, just install Linux instead. Seriously.
    • No, try this one:

      How to fix computer problems in five easy steps:

      Step 1: Set BIOS to Boot From CD
      Step 2: Demonstrate how to use a Linux-Live CD with a USB key to save personal files & settings.
      Step 3: Hand Out Documentation that matches the presentation you gave in step 2, as well as USB Keys
      Step 4: Leave a Linux-Live CD/DVD in each computer, also leave several copies of documentation & cd/dvds somewhere accessable to church elders
      Step 5: Be excommunicated for being communist (as demonstrated by usi
    • I use debian myself.

      But, I get sick and tired of zealots taking every opportunity to promote linux.

      Okay, we get it, you use linux. We are all so proud of you. There, feel better now?

      Back to reality, linux is not for everybody. If somebody is having problems with XP, saying "just install linux" will not make that person happy.
  • "The fourth and final part of my ideal book would explain how to diagnose and repair problems. One of the reasons this isn't trivial is that a book should necessarily focus on the most common problems, but has to leave open the possibility that something unlikely is happening. One of the problems I have with my laptop at work is that when I eat lunch at my desk, the touchpad will interpret dropped crumbs as a continual touch, which immediately makes the cursor uncontrollable. Touchpads are not mentioned in
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ok, lets use the infamous car analogy.

    A person has a car and don't know how to drive and don't want to pay a mechanic to fix the breakage. They want a book that covers all features and all possibilities of anything that could possibly go wrong for all makes and models of automobiles AND it has to be clear, concise and perfectly attuned for any skill level from noob to nuts.

    It has to be laid out in such a way .... and speak in such a way ... and have everything that could be needed ... etc. In other words a
  • It is probably not the most popular subject on Slashdot, but the A+ training materials provide a decent fundamental knowledge of hardware, software, Operating Systems, and how everything works togather. It is where I started, and i now not only know how to work on computers but i get paid for it.
  • What's up with people having a Tech IQ of 0 posting on slashdot. If you're trying to read a book to figure out how to fix a Windows machine instead of going straight to google, you're better off going to Frys or calling GeekSquad.

    You do not learn how to fix computers by reading books.
    • It may surprise you to hear that people were learning stuff from books -- even how to fix computers -- long before google was a gleam in Larry Page's eye. I don't know a single engineer who doesn't have 5 books or so at his or her desk.

      Even with google available, books are helpful to cover the basics so that people know how to ask the right questions, which is much more difficult in the internet age than getting the right answers [insert lame hitchhiker's guide joke here].

      Don't confuse ignorance with a l

  • wouldn't just assume that PC == windows OS.
  • POSSLQ


    WTF?

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