Mr. Modem: How to advance self-taught computing

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Although I can visit websites at work, there are some computing tasks that I don’t know how to do. What would you recommend for a person like me to learn more about my computer?

Since none of us were born knowing how to use a computer, you’re in good company. The best approach for learning basic computing skills is an organized, methodical one, proceeding at a pace that’s comfortable for you.

The first thing I always recommend is assessing your current skills. You probably know a lot more about computing than you think. For example, your email to me looks fine, you obviously know how to use a mouse, navigate between programs and visit websites in your work. Those are foundational skills already within your possession.

Next, make a list of your objectives. What is it that you want to learn? You mentioned certain tasks you have in mind, so create a list of those tasks and prioritize them. This list will become your plan of action that you can then pursue in a sequential manner, following your self-directed course of study.

Just about anything you want to learn is available online, either in the form of a user guide, a tutorial, or YouTube video, or even a weekly computer-help newsletter by yours truly.

Even though Windows 8 is out, I only recently moved to Windows 7 from XP. How can I get the XP-style Taskbar to appear in Windows 7?

Right-click an open area of the Taskbar and select Properties. In the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window, click the Taskbar tab. Place a check mark beside the Use Small Icons option. Click the drop-down menu next to Taskbar Buttons and select Never Combine. Click Apply > OK and your Taskbar will become the more familiar looking XP version.

I’m curious why SD (Secure Digital) memory cards are assigned or designated by classes (Class 4, Class 8, etc.), but USB flash drives are not so designated?

Caution: Geekspeak Ahead! A class, by definition, denotes how many MB/second (megabytes per second) of data can be transferred, so Class 2 SD cards have a minimum sustained data transfer speed of 2 MB per second, a Class 4 is 4 MB/second, a Class 6 is 6 MB/second and a Class 10 is a blistering 10 MB/second. The higher the class number, the faster the data transfer rate and the more expensive the card.

Because USB drives arrived on the digital scene years before SD cards, in an attempt to avoid or minimize confusion, the newer “class” designation wasn’t applied to USB drives retroactively.

Mr. Modem publishes “Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit

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