Device Housekeeping

Note: Device? Here called a device, as it may be a desktop computer, a laptop [either running Windows or Mac software], a tablet (such as iPad), a smartphone (such as an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy), or some other piece of equipment.  It is a lot easier to say ‘device’ to cover all options, though you will see that there are variations in approach to different devices.  Essentially though ALL of these are computers of various sophistication and capability.

RULE 1. Keep your device clean! Actually Rules 2 to 10 are exactly the same – but we can explore the ways in which you can achieve this:

  • Physically
  • Through security
  • Through software
  • Through system management

Physical cleanliness.  You do not need to polish your device, but you will find that taking good care of it physically will prolong its life – and you are holding some hundreds of pounds’ worth of value, so it makes some sense to invest in cases, screen cleaners, and dust covers.  Dust is the main enemy, and this can lead to sticky keys, clogged fans and poor performance.  If your device does get very dirty and you experience any of those symptoms, please do not, as someone I once worked with did, put it under the tap to give it a good clean! – the device is a sophisticated set of electronic circuits and likes water even less than dust.  You can get it cleaned professionally – but not often, as there is a cost.

Security.  Mark Rest detailed security issues a few meetings ago, but it still has a place here, as your device – and you – will be subject to potential attack if you do not have adequate defences in place.  Mark ran through a number of options for anti-virus.  (Please contact Mark if you need a copy of his sheet)  [Martin] My own preferred anti-virus software is AVG, and I use the free version, although you can pay to beef it up; many other free and costly options are available.  There are some very important points associated:

  • It does not help a lot to have more than one anti-virus system installed – they sometimes compete with each other and report each other as a threat!
  • Apple devices are far more secure than Windows, and do not have the culture of hacking as a sport, so you can rest easy on those.  If, however, you want to be absolutely secure, a free antivirus package is available and recommended: Sophos.  This also has a premium version that can be paid for.  Other packages are available too.
  • When installing some software applications, you may find that the anti-virus software prevents the installation, until you disable the anti-virus.  This is fine – as long as you then remember to re-enable it.
  • To be truly effective, your anti-virus software must be current and run regularly.  You should ensure that it automatically updates the latest virus definitions, and is allowed to run on a schedule to suit you – optimally once a day, but once a week at least.

We won’t go into dealing with a virus attack here. Rest assured, you are unlikely to be attacked through ‘normal’ everyday activity. If, however, you start browsing the internet in strange and exotic places (!), then you may leave yourself open – which is really saying, take care who uses your device!

Software update.  Your device is supported by the suppliers of your software and operating system, e.g. Microsoft, Apple, etc. – these companies work hard to keep their software in good order and put out regular system updates.  In all cases, it is strongly advised that you do perform the necessary updates as they become available.

Operating System

These updates ensure that any known security breaches are plugged [particularly important for Windows], as well as making general ‘improvements’.  Note that these improvements may not always be welcome, and can change small, but significant options in your device interface.

You should always update when connected to wifi – updating over a networked connection, especially overseas, will eat your data allowance, and may be expensive.

Windows

Windows. You must ensure that Windows Update is set to operate on your Windows devices.  This process has a number of options: you can set the update to run automatically at a specified time (be prepared to leave the device on overnight if that is selected -in that case, ensure that you have not set your device to close down after, say 10 minutes!); or you can make it a two-stage process, where the update files are downloaded, and processed manually, under your control.

Mac

Mac. Mac operating system updates are more of ‘a big thing’, and come out periodically.  Going to the Apple icon top left of the screen tells you which OS you’re on.  The latest version is named Mojave.  If you need to update, the recommendation is that you should first ensure your files are backed up (more below), and that your device can actually handle the update.  You may need to check your device model against the published advice notes.  You can click onto ‘About this Mac’ and then onto storage to check the status for how much space you’ve used up (more will be required for the update processes).  https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT206996 has all sort of helpful stuff about optimising space if storage is limited. 

Apple iPad/iPhone

iPad/iPhone. Your device will alert you when a new operating system update is available.  This will show in ‘Settings’ | ‘Software update’.  You can take the update immediately, or defer for overnight operation.  You will always need sufficient battery life to proceed.

Android

Samsung and Android devices.  Ensure that you are connected to WiFi not mobile data, then:

Go to Settings > About device > Software update > Download updates automatically > Scheduled software updates > Set start time (worth setting to 01.00) and click Install everyday.

Similarly, in Settings click Applications > Galaxy Apps > Auto update apps > Using Wi-Fi only.

Application software

Application updates depend on the nature both of the device and the contract you have with the supplier (you did read the small-print, didn’t you?).  Some, such as Microsoft products, will be updated as part of the Windows Update process, while others must be updated by selection of an option from the application menu (in the case of non-Microsoft Windows applications), or may be automatically updated, e.g. iPad/iPhone applications through the AppStore process.

Again the advice is firmly to update as the options become available.  In some cases, you will have paid (or are continuing to pay) for the software, and you should get your money’s worth; but even the free applications on your iPad should be updated to keep on top of them.

Some specific notes:

  • Google. [Windows] Google will alert you if you are using a very old version.  If you look at the main URL address bar, there is an upward arrow at the end if there is an outstanding update (three upright dots otherwise).
  • iTunes. This is a package from Apple which initially allowed you to upload music on to your device, or purchase it online, and play it through a device or network.  This has expanded from the original use for iPods, and now is an essential for iPad and iPhone integration.  If you need to synchronise your iPhone, for example, this is easily achieved using a link to your Windows device, and iTunes.  Annoyingly, iTunes does update quite regularly via ‘Apple Software Update’ which will tell you that you need the update, and what it will give you.  You should process the update, as with any other.  If, however, you have no music, iPad, iPod, nor iPhone, then you can get rid of the update prompts by removing the iTunes program.
  • iCloud.  Another Apple package which you may have through use of iPhone/iPad.  These allow you to store partial device backups, and photos and music on a remote storage device (iCloud).  The first 5Gb is free – anything further is chargeable. Laptop/Desktop devices can link to iCloud with Apple software, and that same ‘Apple Software Update’ will alert you to changes required.
  • Office 365.  If you subscribe to this software from Microsoft, updates will be processed via Windows Update, and application updates for mobile devices.  You should not need to do anything special.  For Mac in an Office application, on the main menu, go to Help >Check for Updates and under How would you like updates to be installed? select Automatically Download and Install.

System management

Backup.

For security and ease of mind, you are recommended to backup your files regularly. Mark Rest discussed this some meetings ago, so there is not a great deal of detail added here. Essentially, backup will cost in some form, and it is really up to you want data is to be protected in this way, but options are:

  • Memory stick. Simply copying files to a small memory stick is an easy solution. If the data is small but still important, it would be worth investing in 3 separate sticks, labelled A B C, and using each in daily rotation.
  • Portable hard drive. Small independent drives of up to 2Tb (2 terabytes or 2000 gigabytes!) are quite cheap and more useful if you are backing up large quantities of music, photographs, videos, etc. It may take a good amount of time, so perhaps scheduled for once a week.
  • Online backup. Where appropriate, you can use iCloud, as noted above. There are some commercial services available, and some free ones like Dropbox.

Margaret notes for Mac: I use LaCie. I bought another external hard disk but found it only worked with Windows, whereas LaCie seemed unfazed by Mac. I don’t have it connected all the time but it would back up several times a day if I did. Every 10 days it nags me if I haven’t run a backup, and I mostly rely on that. 

Processing memory

When you use your device, the programs load into memory, and so the more you run concurrently, the more that memory space will become clogged – and your device will run slower and less efficiently as a result.  In Windows and Mac devices, simply shutting the device down will automatically clear the memory and leave it clear for the next start up.  Mobile devices – Android and iPhone/iPad – never actually shut down, and continue to run.  You should then always close an app when you have finished with it.  You can do this by double clicking on the device’s Home button.  This will show all of the applications which are currently running – and using memory AND battery – with the latest upfront.  You can close that app by simply swiping it away (swipe upwards).  Note that you may find that you have not been clearing and so ALL apps will need to be closed.  It is important to note that closing the app in this way does not necessarily mean that you lose the existing screen, and so reopening the app will often take you back to the same point you left from.

—- Written by Martin Fisk | Peter Hallam | Margaret Shaw Nov. 2018