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KELLNER: A call to the newly gifted, and a call to arms

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Those of you fortunate enough to get a new computer (or netbook or tablet) for Christmas will, no doubt, be very excited about your new purchase. But before diving in, may I suggest a few steps?

First, Read The Manual. No kidding. There's probably a "Quick Start" version or cheat sheet you can glance at to make setting up easier and faster. Even if this is your 14th new computer, please, read the instructions. There is often a twist or change in THIS model that is different from the rest. You'll thank me later, I promise.

Among the many changes in today's computers versus yesterday's is a greater emphasis on wireless and Internet-based configuration and updating. It's always a good idea to let the computer's update programs run, and perhaps run a second time, before getting down to work. That way, you'll be reasonably sure of having the latest-latest versions of the operating software and other files you need.

Another change: making your own backup disks of the operating system and supplied programs. Again, the manual (or documentation) should help here. Have a pack of recordable DVDs handy, just in case.

Your new computer may also have a wireless keyboard and mouse. You may already know how to set these up; if you don't, that's what the manual is there for.

Bottom line: Read the instructions. You'll be happier.

Second new thing to do, especially if you have a Windows-based PC, is to check for anti-virus and other software protection. New machines usually come with something you can use for at least 30, 60 or 90 days (sometimes a year) without charge. If your new machine doesn't have such protection, find some online (www.norton.com is one place to start) and order, or run over to Costco or BestBuy and pick some up. It's really very cheap insurance to keep things running smoothly.

The third new thing is to buy, and use, backup drives. They're cheap enough - $100 or (much) less will get you a terabyte of storage - and simple enough to use. I'll have some specific recommendations early next year in this space.

Oh, and do enjoy your new system. Computers, after all, are supposed to be fun.

Call to arms

This newspaper, and others, are reporting on the Federal Communications Commission's decision to regulate traffic and content on the Internet. The so-called "net neutrality" rules have drawn fire, as The Washington Times' David Eldridge has reported - from Republicans for going too far, and from Democrats for not going far enough.

It's difficult for this writer to remain "neutral" about net neutrality, which undoubtedly will face court challenges and perhaps legislation from the new Congress during 2011. I tend to agree with FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, who says there's nothing to fix online. I also worry about just how far the FCC might go with such regulations.

I speak as someone who spent a good chunk of his career covering the FCC. During the time of visionaries such as FCC Chairmen Richard Wiley, Dennis Patrick and Al Sikes, and feisty commissioners such as Patricia Diaz Dennis and Jim Quello, there was a need to regulate much of communications.

Today? That's largely gone. Land-line telephony is struggling to stay alive. Wireless spectrum is changing hands with billion-dollar price tags. Skype, Facebook and other Internet-based services are eclipsing many older means of communications. And a building full of bureaucrats isn't a guarantee of progress: I remember sitting in a very empty Senate hearing room when Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, told some state regulators they'd best resolve a telecom matter themselves: "Otherwise we'll get involved, and we don't know what the heck we're doing."

"Net neutrality" is one of those areas. In the case of the FCC, a 77-year-old appendage of a different epoch, I am reminded of Oliver Cromwell's 1653 declaration to the Rump Parliament: "You have been sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go."

In other words, I believe it's time for the FCC to be replaced. Someone in the next Congress should put that on his or her to-do list.

c E-mail mkellner @washingtontimes.com.

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