name='keywords'/> February 2012 | COMPUTER BASICS FOR HUMAN RESOURCES PROFESSIONALS Best Blogger Tips

Since computer terminology can often be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to understanding the world of personal computers,I've tried to make things a bit easier by defining new terms at the beginning of the chapter in they first appear

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

SOME BASIC ESSENTIALS FOR COMPUTERS



              There is no better place to begin, than the beginning
This chapter is designed to accomplish two things:
1. Provide a basic understanding of how to work with a personal computer.
2. Serve .is guidelines for materials to include in personal computer training programs.
The information in this chapter assumes no prior knowledge of or experience with a personal computer. Anyone who has a comfortable working relationship with a personal computer may wish to skim over this section to get ideas of how to structure an introductory training course. For others starting from scratch, however, the chapter will focus on building a working knowledge of:
The keyboard
The operating system
Working with diskettes
Security and backups
GETTING STARTED
As noted earlier, the two most common types of personal computers that will be encountered in most organizations are machines containing two diskette drives, and those with one diskette drive and a hard disk.
Diskette drives refer to the number of slots on the microprocessor for inserting diskettes. Two-drive systems have one slot for the program diskette and one for working on and storing the results (see Figure 30).
Since hard disks offer the storage equivalent of 30 diskettes, they require only one diskette drive for entering information (see Figure 31), although they may be configured with two drives for more sophisticated applications. In either case, the loading process is the same. The diskette drive(s) has an opening through which diskettes are inserted into the computer. Each opening has a device similar to a door that can be opened and closed using what is called a lift load lever. Once a diskette is inserted, the door is closed behind it by pushing the load lever down. While the system reads your program, a small red light on the front of your disk drive will come on. Do not open the drive door while this light is on. Doing so may permanently damage the program, and under some circumstances the system unit itself.


 
FIGURE 31. Proper way of loading a diskette. Courtesy of International Business Machines.
To make things more comfortable, it is possible to make minor adjustments to the height of the keyboard and the brightness and contrast of the display monitor. If the display monitor is near a source of bright light, such as a window, or has a high degree of glare, an anti glare screen might be appropriate.
Depending on the model, most keyboards have two to three possible positions. These range from, flat to a five-degree to 15 degree angle. To adjust the height, pick up the keyboard and, make the  necessary adjustment using the knobs at each end.
Brightness and contrast can be adjusted using the control knobs generally found on the front of the monitor. On systems that share multiple users, this will probably have to be done every time a person sits down to work. Everything a computer does is governed by operating sys tern, which is a software program that manages many of the computer’s basic functions. It acts as an intermediary between hardware and software and performs such tasks as controlling the input output devices, assigning spaces in memory to programs and data, and controlling how the system processes information. -
For IBM and IBM-compatible machines the operating system is called DOS (Disk Operating System), MS-DOS, or PC-DOS. They all perform the same basic functions.
The operating system must be present whenever a system is on in order for anything to be accomplished. In addition, it must be copied to all software before that software can be installed or used. Most software is generic in nature and written to be run on more than one brand of machine. Copying the operating system onto a software program allows it to become compatible with a particular system. Instructions accompany most software programs.
Booting is the process of actually loading DOS into a system. Booting clears the memory, loads the operating system, and gets the computer ready to process its work. If this is done when a machine is first turned on, it is called a cold boot. If the operating system is loaded after a system is already up and running, it is called a warm boot.
To perform a cold boot, simply put a copy of DOS or its equivalent in Drive A, and turn the computer on. The on—off switch that controls the system unit or microprocessor is located at the rear of the unit. On IBM machines, the switch will always be on the right-hand side (see Figure 32).
This is the recommended way to activate an entire system:
First, turn on the printer
Second, turn on the monitor
Third, turn on the CPU
Follow this sequence because one of the first things a system unit does is to check what is connected to it, and whether or not they are working properly. Turning the system on as described
 
FIGURE 32. Locations of on/off switch on IBM system unit. Courtesy of International Business Machines.
is the most effective way to accomplish this. If a unit is connected to multisocket electrical power strip or surge suppressors check to see that it is turned on as well. Many people control the power to all their system components through such devices, using them to turn everything on simultaneously.
When the power is switched on, the first sound heard will be the motor humming as the computer checks to see how much memory it has  take from 3 to 90 seconds, depending on how much memory has been installed. Memory will be counted in units   which can be seen blinking by at the top left—hand corner of a monitor.
When the memory check is completed, the computer will emit a short beep, and then display the following message:
Current date is 01-01-1980
Enter new date:
At this point, a person may simply hit the “enter” key, or may provide the current date. If he or she is working with file materials, or materials that may require future reference, a date should be entered. To enter a date, the computer must be given the month, 1-12, day, 1-31, and year, 80-99. A correct entry might be: 10-14-1986.
The operating system will then ask for the time. Again, the choice is to simply hit “enter,” or supply the current time. Since a 24-hour clock is used, any time past noon should carry one of the following values:
1:00 = 1300 hr
2:00 = 1400 hr
7:00 = 1900 hr
8:00 = 2000 hr
3:00 = 1500 hr 9:00 = 2100 hr
4:00 1600 hr
5:00 1700 hr
6:00 = 1800 hr
10:00 = 2200 hr
11:00 = 2300 hr
12:00 = 2400 hr

The time is expressed in hours: minutes: seconds: and hundredths. Colons (:) must be used between• hours, minutes, and seconds. Any value that is omitted will be assumed to be a zero. For example, if it is 2:30 in the afternoon, you would enter 14:30 hrs. And the system would record 14:30:00.
To perform a warm boot, the system must be restarted by using the “Cntrl,”“Alt,” and “Del” keys simultaneously. The operating system disk should be in drive A, unless the system has a hard disk on which it has already been installed. As in a cold boot, the operating system will again ask to have the date and time entered.

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WORD GUIDE TO CHAPTER THREE

Bootstrap:
 A program that starts a computer.   
Cursor:
A patch of light or other visual indicator that shows where a person is working in a body of text.
DOS:
Disk Operating System. This is IBM’s version of the operating system1 which controls many of the functions of the computer.
Directory:
Tables of contents that lists programs and files that are stored sequentially on a diskette or hard disk. In short, a directory that describes the layout of records within a file.
Operating System:
A program or collection of programs that manages the hardware, output devices, logic operations and a number of other management functions. it provides a link between software and the computer’s internal language.
Security:
 The protection of information against disclosure, transfer, modifications, or destruction.
Write Protect:
 The process of protecting information stored on a diskette by sealing off the read/write notch with a tab or special tape. Some diskettes, such as those containing the operating systems, are  permanently sealed to prevent writing over their contents.

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Saturday, 11 February 2012

SUMMARY OF COMPUTERS


While computers trace their lineage back several hundred years, most of the advances that led to modern computers have taken place since the late 1940s.
Most people think of computers as large cabinets with spinning tapes and blinking lights, which are locked behind security doors. This describes mainframe units—the large machines that process high volumes of information for businesses and governments. Since the invention of the microchip (very small transistors), a new generation of computers has become available. Known as personal or microcomputers, these machines have taken the same computing power that once required an entire room, and placed it in units that can sit on top of a desk or in a person’s lap.
Whether large mainframe units or the small micros, all computers operate in basically the same fashion. Computers are composed of the following functional sections:
Input
Central processing unit
Memory
Output

Input consists of the data to be processed, and the software program that provides the instructions and commands necessary for the computer to perform a specific job. These programs may be written by the computer’s operator, using a programming language that translates human instructions into a machine language the computer understands. Software programs that perform just about any task imaginable can also be purchased off the shelf.
The CPU is where the computer performs its arithmetic and logic functions, and where the operation of all the hardware is controlled.
Memory is where information (data) and instructions are stored. These are transferred between memory and the CPU by means of electrical conduits called registers.
There are two kinds of memory:
1. ROM
2. RAM
Read Only Memory can be read only by the computer itself. The computer operator has no control over it. It is the computer’s own software program, imprinted at the factory, to tell the computer how to work its own system.
Random Access Memory is under the operator’s control and is used to store information and instructions. The amount of RAM available (i.e., 64K, 256K, 640K), signifies the amount of filing-. cabinet space the computer has built into it, in which data can be filed, retrieved, and manipulated on a random basis. When the computer finishes processing the information it has been given, it returns it in the form of output. Output is made available through a printer, the video display unit, or by communicating it to another computer system. How does it all come together? The process starts by identifying a job that the computer can perform. A program is then chosen or created that will accomplish the tasks desired. The program will be written in a language the computer can understand, and that it converts to binary codes to actually carry out its assignment. All of this is governed by an operating system that tells the computer how to best perform the job, manages the filing system for storing the information, and operates the hardware needed to produce the work.


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Friday, 10 February 2012

Software


As noted earlier, there are software products for just about anything and everything imaginable. From games to programs designed to enhance professional development or monitor diet and nutrition, the list of possibilities seems almost limitless. Business software falls into the following categories:
Database management
Decision support
Word processing
Communications
Specialized use programs
Integrated software programs
DATABASE MANAGEMENT
Database management software allows for recording, modifying, and retrieving information without writing customized programs. Most database programs are designed to help users decide what type of information they want to record. They provide the means to enter, manipulate, and integrate the information to produce summaries, reports, or specific displays of items of interest. Most are set up to handle spur-of-the-moment inquiries, and allow records to be sorted and selected according to specific criteria. Examples of database software include PFS: File and Report and dbase III.
DECISION SUPPORT
The basic function of all decision support software, also known as financial modeling software, is to provide:
A quick and easy way to create mathematical models
Ways to enter information into the models
Reports of the results
These products can be broken down into three major categories: spreadsheets (VisiCa lc), financial modeling (IFPS), and integrated systems, which contain a database and graphing system (Lotus 1-2-3). All these products are designed to operate like an electronic multicolumnar accounting worksheet, except these worksheets have variable column widths with built-in math and financial models. Decision support software can be used to J)r1 pare budgets, analyze sales figures, calculate cash flow, or tiny other application where the information can be presented in a row or column.
WORD PROCESSING
Word processing packages allow for the creation, editing, and printing of documents, including correspondence and reports, form letters, legal papers, mailing labels, bills, and even book- length manuscripts. This book, for example, was written on a personal computer using one of the more popular word processing programs. The combination of word processing and personal computers offers more sophistication than can be found on a memory typewriter, and costs a fraction of the amount of a dedicated word processing system. The most fundamental component of any word processing package is its text editor. These editors are designed to edit a screenplay of text at a time, rather than line by line. They allow the user to scroll backward and forward through the text, rearrange it, copy it, delete words and phrases, add to an existing document, and, on some, check for spelling. Among the more popular programs are MultiMate, Word Star and the Volkswriter series.
COMMUNICATIONS
Personal computers that are linked together directly, or tied into host system, require the use of protocol software designed to allow two machines to talk with each other. A protocol is a standard that has been agreed to by hardware and software manufacturers so that different devices can transfer data between them. Without such a standard, two machines could not send or receive information at the same time or perform either function out of synchronization. A protocol provides a way for one machine to recognize that a line is tied up to the host, and that it must wait its turn. Protocols also provide the various sets of rules for controlling the transmission of information over any communications channel or cable.
Among the many functions protocol software programs perform are:
Establish and terminate the connection between two systems Maintain the integrity of the transmission through error detection procedures and requests for retransmissions Identify the sending and receiving machines handle a variety of special control functions, such as status checks, to make sure everything is working properly. Some software programs also provide a means to scramble and unscramble data communicated over telephone lines in order to protect the security of the information.
Among the more popular of these products are PC-Talk, Smart com II, and Crosstalk.
SPECIALIZED USE PROGRAMS
Specialized use packages fall into several groups:
Programs that support other software packages or enhance their use
Software that provides a specialized service, sometimes run- fling concurrently with another program
Graphics programs
Among the various packages available for specialized use are those that:
Run desktop organizers, which feature calculator, message board, telephone dialing, and appointment calendar functions that appear as windows similar to those shown in Figure 28, that overlay whatever software you may be working on. Print spreadsheet applications sideways so that they fit into reports more naturally. Increase the computer’s processing speed. Enhance keyboard operations by memorizing keystroke sequences and consolidating commands. With a program such as this, commands that normally take six or seven keystrokes can be reduced to one.

FIGURE 28. Monitor showing window display.
Produce presentation quality charts and graphs as shown in Figure 29.
Prepare line drawings, schematics, blueprints, and high resolution reproductions. The list of these specialized programs could go on. Most are available at a reasonable cost, usually for under $100, and many are offered free of charge through local personal computer user groups, or electronic bulletin boards.


INTEGRATED SOFTWARE
Integrated software programs offer several major functions in one package. Some of these offerings, for example, combine word processing, database management, and spreadsheets along with some form of communications. This is a one-stop-shopping approach, where you get everything in one place at one price. These are large programs that require substantial memory requirements on the order of 640K. Since they offer so much, they also have to scrimp in places to get everything in. This generally means that they can’t offer all the sophisticated features available in those programs that specialize in just doing word processing or spreadsheets. Two examples of integrated software are Symphony and Framework.


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Sunday, 5 February 2012

CONFIGURING A SYSTEM


The best way to configure, or have a personal computer assembled to meet specific needs, is to single out those jobs that are appropriate for such a machine to perform. After a list of













FIGURE 26. Compaq Portable Personal Computer. Courtesy of Compaq Computer Corporation.


















FIGURE 27. Lap-top personal computer. Drawing Courtesy of Data General Corporation.

 These tasks has been established, the next step is to take a look at what software products are available that will best meet those needs. When the most appropriate software has been selected, the personal computer itself can be designed and ordered. Following this approach ensures that enough memory will be installed to run the software, and that the personal computer will be tailored with such things as fixed disks, and given whatever capabilities are needed to perform such tasks as: displaying and printing color charts and graphs, communicating with other computers, having access to over-the-phone services via a modem, and printing letter-quality documents. If machines are dedicated to training programs or departments, they should be configured as closely as possible to those placed elsewhere in the organization. Most systems being installed in organizations contain between 256K and 640K of memory, are equipped to handle color graphics and displays, and have a printer. For training purposes, a dot-matrix is generally all that is necessary. 


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THE DIFFERENT STYLES OF PERSONAL COMPUTERS


The world of personal computers is one of Apples, Lisa’s, Macintosh's, Compaq’s, Commodores, Eagles, Data Generals, and half a hundred others. While they all function much the same, not all are suitable for the needs of business, industry, or government. For example, many computers found in homes may be fine for video games or for handling a basic budget, but they often lack the capabilities and memory needed to handle most business applications. In business and industry, the IBM Personal Computer (IBM PC) has emerged as the primary machine for desktop computing. The IBM PC, also known as the Model One, is that company’s first entry into the personal computer market. The Model One, shown in Figure 23 with a monochrome monitor, has two disk drives, which means that it offers no internal long-term storage and is dependent on diskettes for its instructions and for storing work. The disk drives are the two open slots on the front of the microprocessor as pictured in Figure 23. The diskette containing the software program is placed in the left-hand drive and the diskette on which the work will be stored is put in the drive on the right. The system identifies the disk drives as:













FIGURE 23. Dual disk drive system. Courtesy of International Business Machines.
Drive A (the disk drive on the left)
Drive B (the disk drive on the right)
When the machine is turned off, it loses everything that was stored on it
The IBM XT, pictured in Figure 24 with a color monitor, has a hard disk installed, which makes internal long—term storage possible. This machine has one disk drive unit and a hard fixed disk. Diskettes containing the software or data to be worked on are loaded through the disk drive and then copied to the hard disk, which generally has a storage capacity of 10 megabytes.
The system identifies each of these units as:
Drive A (the disk drive on the left)

Drive C (the hard fixed disk)
A fixed disk drive makes it easier to switch from one program to another. It is also easier to integrate information from various














 
FIGURE 24. IBM hard disk system. Courtesy of International Business Machines.
Programs and files into a single document. An example would be to merge sections from an electronic spreadsheet program into a report being prepared under a word processing program. Un- like the PC, the XT will retain anything stored on its hard disk whenever the power is turned off. While each system can be equipped with up to 640K of short- term memory (RAM), there are some differences in the mother boards, which contain the main circuitry for a personal computer. The XT has the ability to add or expand the system by five additional devices or functions over what the PC can handle. Hard disks also operate faster than diskette drives. This allows access to more information at greater speeds. Another version of the PC is the AT, which can process information two or three times faster than an XT and has a fixed disk storage capacity of 20 megabytes. Figure 25 is a 3270 personal computer. Essentially, this is an XT that has been modified to also act as if it were a terminal connected to a mainframe. While this capability can exist in any personal computer in which an emulation board has been installed, a 3270 has everything built right in.













FIGURE 25. IBM 3270 Personal Computer. Courtesy of International Business Machines.
The 3270 personal computer also has a feature called windowing, which allows the display screen to be divided into as many as seven separate work areas. An analogy would be putting a report together from different piles of information. Instead of stacking everything on a desk, the computer can display data from up to four different sources simultaneously. There are also windows on which notes or reminders can be written and displayed. Portable computers such as the Compaq and Data General/One Laptop (see Figure 26) are also popular. These machines are often equipped the same way a desktop system is, and can perform identical functions and run the same software programs. Portable computers are totally self-contained and come with built- in monitors, disk drives, and, on some models, fixed disks (see Figure 27).


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Modems


Modems allow long-distance communication to take place between two computers by way of telephone lines or signals. Modems for personal computers may be one of two kinds: an internal modem (installed within the computer itself), or an external (a piece of hardware that connects to the computer). In addition to a modem, an active telephone outlet and a communications software package are needed.
Modems are used to produce signals compatible with telephone equipment. The equipment used in the telephone system requires that digital signals from a computer be converted to analog signals for transmission. Without a modem, telephone system amplifiers and filters would alter the digital signals and turn them into gibberish before they reach any other computer. Modems are grouped according to speed, features, and by their abilities to store dialing directories and make direct dial calls. Once equipped with a modem and the appropriate software, personal computers can dial any other system equipped to receive their calls; anywhere in the world. The various services that can be accessed include:
Up-to-the-minute stock prices
Movie reviews
Airline schedules and reservation services
Hotel and car rental reservation services
Public service bulletin boards, containing everything from free
Software to consumer tips and want ads
Shop-at-home service
Some of these services require the payment of a subscription fee, while others charge only the cost of the telephone call.


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COMMUNICATING WITH A MAINFRAME


Personal computers first found their way into most organizations for uses that generally required little additional information beyond what was readily available. People were quick to realize, however, that the real power in computing came from having access to the large volumes of information that were found on mini or mainframe systems. This information wasn’t available to personal computers because of their inability to exchange files with, or access software from, these larger computers. To get around this, terminal emulators were developed to allow a personal computer to act as if it were a part of the terminal network for a larger system. An emulator (sometimes called an emulation, or Irma, board) essentially fools the computer into thinking it is dealing with another dedicated terminal. A dedicated terminal is one that can be used only to put information into and take information out of a mainframe or minicomputer (the host). A dedicated terminal has no computing power of its own, and cannot process information it receives from the host. This is what makes personal computers so valuable and data processing departments so nervous. Personal computers equipped with emulators can access the main storage banks on the larger systems and then download, or remove information, from the host and place it in the personal computer’s memory, so that computing can actually take place on a worker’s desk. This essentially sidesteps data processing altogether under some circumstances. When the worker has finished whatever manipulation of the data is needed, it can be returned to the host through a process known as uploading. In order to accomplish these tasks, personal computers need to have: An emulation board installed Cabling, or another form of connection, such as a telephone line to the host Software, to make it work it is estimated by some data processing professionals that by 1990 as many as 25 percent of all mainframes installed in large companies in the United States will have personal computer-to- mainframe communications.


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Networking

Up to this point, most of the information in this book has been written from the standpoint of the personal computer as a standalone machine. One power of computing, however, is in linking several computers into what is called a local area network (LAN).
Personal computers can be linked directly to one another through a terminal network connected to a mainframe computer, or though smaller minicomputers that link personal computers within specific offices or departments. These minicomputers, in turn, might be tied into a larger mainframe (or host) computer. Generally, all connections are made either by direct cabling or through existing telephone lines.
In order to allow personal computers to communicate with one another, three things are needed:
1. A communications card, which is plugged into a computer to connect it to the network
2. Cabling and some control machinery to keep everything functioning in harmony
3. Software
The software is perhaps the most important ingredient, because it will have the biggest effect on the results a network is able to achieve.
Networks are valuable because they allow people to share information almost instantly. Let us say that a worker has a memorandum or some budget files that he or she would like to share with someone else on another floor. Using the network concept, 11w information could be put together on one personal computer and then sent directly to the second system. In many networks, the sender may even direct something straight to the recipient’s printer to produce a paper copy. It is important for those who plan to use a LAN to first decide what they want the network to do. Options range from sharing files easily and allowing many people to access them, to simple communications such as electronic mail. Other considerations include deciding what should be sent (voice, video, and data communications are all possible), and determining whether or not every personal computer in the network needs such capabilities. These considerations are what make the software so important, because programs differ substantially in terms of the services they can deliver.


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Friday, 3 February 2012

OUTPUT: PRINTERS, NETWORKING,AND TRANSFERRING DATA



Printers
A number of things can happen to information after a user has finished working with it. In some cases, it may be enough to just see it on a monitor, or send it to a storage device. In most situations, however, it will probably be shared with other people.
The most common means of sharing computer information is to make a printed copy of it. While there are many brands of printers available in the marketplace, three kinds are generally available for personal computers: dot-matrix, letter quality, and nonimpact. The following comparison of these three kinds of printers originally appeared in Microcomputers for Insurance Professionals, written by Kenneth and Christina McClung, and John Guarneri
Dot-Matrix Printers
The dot-matrix printer gets its name from the way it produces characters. The print head has a set of wires that produce tiny dots according to a specific matrix pattern. For instance, an 8 x 9 dot- matrix printer produces dots in a matrix 8 dots wide by 9 dots high. The positioning of the dots determines the character formed. This method of printing is quick and inexpensive, but the quality of the characters produced is not as good as that of a letter-quality printer. (See Figure 22.)
A rule of thumb regarding dot-matrix printers is that the greater the number of dots in the matrix, the higher the quality of printed output: For example, a 9 x 23 matrix will produce higher quality print than will an 8 x 9 matrix. Some dot-matrix printers can approach letter quality by overprinting each character a second time with a light offset. This increase in the quality of appearance must be weighed against the reduction in output speed incurred by having each character printed twice.


  Figure 22. Dot matrix printer. Courtesy of International Business Machines.

The Letter-Quality Printer
The letter-quality printer produces the same high quality, fully formed characters as a typewriter. These printers give your correspondence a more professional appearance. In addition you can change the type style of your output with most letter-quality, printers. Letter-quality printers usually use removable typing elements available in most popular type styles. Depending on the brand of printer, this element may take the shape of a daisy wheel, a thimble, or the familiar IBM-style ball. (See Exhibit 6.)
Non impact Printers

Non impact printers are fast, quiet and generally the most expensive type of printers, with the cost often starting at $1,000. Some non impact printers also offer greater resolution and color graphics for users who need to produce sharp charts, reports and presentations. There are three kinds of non impact printers available: laser, ink-jet and thermal-transfer.
Laser: A laser printer uses a laser beam to write an image onto the photo conducting drum of a photocopier mechanism where the patterns pickup toner that is then transferred to a sheet of paper.
Ink-jet: Ink-jet printers spray ink at the paper at high speed, driving the ink into the surface with the impact.
Thermal-transfer: Thermal-transfer printers melt an image onto the paper by using precision heating elements and either a thermal ribbon or a transfer sheet.

 EXHIBIT 6. Comparison of text created by different types of printers. Reprinted with permission from Microcomputers for Insurance Professionals, McCluny, Guerriesi, and McCluny, John Wiley and Sons, 1984.


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