Last month, we asked you to help us learn your needs by filling out our survey.
First, thanks so much to all of you who took the time to include your answers
and opinions. And congrats to Carl Swann and Martha Bagswell, our two drawing
We'll be analyzing the data further and hope to supply you with more articles
to help fill your needs. But for this month, I thought you might enjoy seeing
some of the results.
Being a Microsoft oriented Ezine, it's obvious that the majority of our readers
use some form of Microsoft Office. Although there was a handful who said they
didn't. The majority of our readers (who took the survey) are using Office 2000
with Office XP coming in a far second. No one said they still use Office 4x,
but there are still a few Office 95 users and a fair amount of folks still using
And within Office, by far, the majority of our readers use Word, with Excel
and Outlook nearly tied for second place. After that, in order of popular use,
- Outlook Express
- Front Page
Project and Visio both came in tied for last, with each having only a handful
of users. But that's also probably because we haven't done any articles on either.
I'd like to cover these better in the future.
As for Windows, the majority of our readers appear to be Windows 98 users! Windows
2000 and WinXP Pro nearly tie for second place. With Windows XP Home and Windows
ME coming in next, in that order. I know there are still a lot of NT users out
there, but not too many apparently read TechTrax. Although we do have some Macintosh
and Linux users and a few Unix users. Toss in a handful of Windows 95 users
and one user who admits to still using Windows 3x.
Number of PCs
As a show of modern technology and the current lowering of computer system costs,
most of our readers have two or three computers. And yes, for those readers
with a couple of kids at home, most do have several computers. Funny, most homes
had more PCs than kids! Being a mom of teenagers, I'll agree which ones I usually
appreciate more! <smirk>
Uses for PCs
You hear a lot of people talking about gaming and other types of entertainment
uses for PCs, but it appears that the majority of our readers are more on the
serious side, with a little fun tossed in. The top votes for using a PC were
for using it for email. Next, we're out there surfing the web, but mostly surfing
for technical tutorials and reference materialmore business and learning
reasons than just passing time. However, the majority of readers also say they
use their PCs for office work, a home business or running a web site, as well
as banking and family projects.
Only a handful of folks said they shop online, which surprised me. And even
less admitted to using their PC for chatting and gaming. But more folks are
using it for gaming and chatting than schoolwork, so we can only hope that the
kids have finished their homework before they hit the games and chat rooms!
Another important use was explained by this user:
- A PC is a very important part of my life as it provides me means to gainful
employment and also to help other blind and particularly sighted users enhance
their quality of lives. My work involves teaching, technical supporting apps
like word and the mainstream windows operating systems available. My computers
give me status and a means to interact with people of both the sighted world
and blind. As I was once sighted myself those last qualities are very important
to me so technology has changed my life very much.
The good news is that just about everyone said they do run an anti virus program!
The majority of users have some version of Norton or Mcafee, but a few other
apps added were: VET, First Aid 97, Trend, AVG Free Version 6.0, NIS, AVAST32,
Sophos SAV v3.63, and Inoculan.
But only a few users said they were first infected with a virus before they
installed an antivirus program. Those listed were: several with Lemmings, a
couple Stoned and one Pong.
And most users apparently wait for their programs to remind them when it's
time to update, although some check for updates weekly, a few check daily.
About half the respondents said they do check the web for either updated video
or printer drivers. Keeping your drivers updated is a smart thing to do. As
you install newer programs, your old drivers may cause conflicts, so using the
latest versions can help solve PC problems! Companies do update their drivers
and you can download updates from manufacturer web sites. A lot of people also
update drivers for: scanners, sound cards, mice, keyboards (since so many are
programmable now), application and system updates, motherboard and bios updates
and various CD drivers.
Nearly everyone said they do watch for updates and patches. Though as you'll
see later, that's also one of the worst things about technologytoo many
Modems and Such
The majority of readers checked 56k modems and cable access. A fair amount are
also using DSL connections. One lucky user is accessing via a T1 line, but no
one selected Web TV or a T3 line, but a couple users are accessing via wireless
cardsincluding our household!
Networks and Firewalls
Another thing I personally found interesting is that more than half of the respondents
said they do have home networks and the same amount do use firewalls,
which is also good. A handful of others said they'd like a home network. For
those of you interested in putting together your own, be sure to check out Greg's
Computor Companion Magazine series called How To Setup a Home Network,
which you can find linked through MouseTrax's Home Computing section
As for the types of firewalls, most folks said they use software firewalls
versus hardware versions. As for the names of some of them (in no particular
order), we have a sampling of these, with some version of ZoneAlarm appearing
to be mentioned most often.
- mechanical firewall using Linksys router
- black ice- Internet Security Systems
- Linksys 4-POrt DSL/Cable Router
- D-Link (built into the cable router)
- Tiny Personal Firewall
- D-Link 704P Router
- outpost/zone alarm/linksys router
- Zone Alarn Free and a Netgear Router I use both
- zone alarm freebie
- Netgear & ZoneAlarm Pro
- McAfee Beta
- Agnitum Outpost
- Zone Alarm by Zone Labs
- Powerlan USA TunnelMate SSH client
- Mac OS
- SMC Barricade, Zone Alarm, Tiny Personal Firewall
As for Internet Connections Sharing feature in Windows, a handful
of people said they used it, with about an equal amount saying they have no
idea what we're talking about. So I guess it's time for Greg to write an article
explaining it, since that was a question he wanted asked.<smirk> Although
he does discuss it in his home
Surprising to me personally is how many folks don't seem to be doing to much
photo editing on their PCat least not from those who took our survey.
Only a small handful said Yes to using their PC specifically for photo editing.
And most who do, apparently use USB connections, with some using Flash Cards
and only one said they use Firewire.
I gave up using a still camera when Greg bought me a video camera, years ago,
which I connect to my PC to snap just the right shot. True, you can get higher
resolution shots from better digital cameras, but as you can see on the TailWinds
page on MouseTrax, I have fun taking a lot of cool pics when Greg flies me around.
I use it for family events, too. And it's great for taking pictures of our dogs
or Greg's reef tank occupants, since neither like to hold still (both of which
can be viewed by those interested on our PetLover's
page), so scanning video for a perfect shot works great.
With all the talk about the digital cameras these days, I guess I just assume
more folks would be using their PCs for photo work. For those of you who do
and could use a little help with photo editing, you can find an editing article,
as well as one for making photo calendars, also on our Home
Computing section of MouseTrax.
As for editing software, the few who do video editing mention Windows movie
maker, Dazzle, Photoshop Pro and one reader says her husband does the video
editing! <grin> Personally, I use Ulead's Video Studio and Roxio's Video
Wave. I also have DVD software, which I just haven't had time to check out.
A lot more folks mention using some type of photo editing program. The majority
of users use Adobe's Photoshop or, my personal favorite, Paint Shop Pro. And
a few folks mention using ACDsee, iPhoto, FinePix, Picture it, Irfanview, Kodak
and Ulead PhotoImpact.
A fair amount of the users who responded to our survey do use some type of screen
reader, voice software or use enlarged or special fonts or colors to enhance
Obviously, my questions about TechTrax were more personal. It was nice to see
that most readers have subscribed so they don't miss any issues. And remember,
we'll be having another software
drawing in January from our list of subscribers, so sign up! The Microsoft
Office department of TechTrax is the most popular, but many readers said they
don't have a particularly favorite and read it all. That was great to know!
I know you all have tons to read each month, so we're happy you enjoy TechTrax.
Our writers work hard to bring you quality articles each month!
Another nice thing to hear was that few readers could name one favorite article,
because they enjoy, save and link to so many.
What You Want to Learn
Ok, this question would take me a week to review. Most of our readers are like
meyou want to know it all! I'm very familiar with that desire, and also
with the frustrations that come with that desire. There's so much to learn and
just when you feel you do know it, it changes! And I can also sympathize with
the reader who wrote:
- I have plenty of time to learn new things, but there is so much to learn
that my need is to stay focused
I will go through the list in more detail, create a list of subjects for our
writers and we'll see what we can do to add more of the types of articles for
which you've asked. Various programming languages and web development were big
requests, as well as the individual applications. We have done some articles
on these items already, so be sure to click the Archive button and know that
you can search by keywords or department, as well as read all our past issues.
And I do plan on personally adding some more web design and web programming
The Best Things About Technologies
Ok, I do want to add some of the reasons why technology is good, as well as
why it's bad, so please bear with me. But I believe these are a good sampling
of the most common reasons, most fun and most poignant.
- Ability to source information from a huge global network
- Simplifies life.
- A source for knowledge and research. I am amazed at what I find on the www.
- The demands are always changing, therefore what you are required to do is
also changing (Keeps life interesting).
- I am an application analyst at a medical center, and I love the way MS Office
makes the job of almost all employees easier and more professional.
- I am a paraplegic and the computer gives me access to places and things
to do see and learn.
- Greatly enhanced productivity and real-time communications
- The ease of information sharing be that text or pictures
- The quality of life they offer me and my dignity to work again.
- Producing legible documents
- Their innate ability to keep a 79 year old curiosity in a constant state
- the world wide web - "talking" to people all over the world via
chat and email
- Working at home. :)
- Being disabled and home-bound, computers have given me a connection to the
outside world and the opportunity for unlimited potential to learn anything
I put the time and effort into.
- Answers in an instant.
- professional output disguises my feeble inputs
- Keeps me fed, shelters me, and provides for my family and my psychiatrist.
(For those long days when I beat my head against the monitor after a crash)
- Computers are so versatile; you can use them for everything. I guess the
best thing about computers is the empowerment and information accessibility
that they offer for the average citizen. They can solve many of the inequities
in the world just by allowing people access to information they can use to
further their cause. Computers give the little-guy a voice!
- The UNDO feature!!
The Worst Things About Technology
Again, this is just a small, but fairly common sampling of the replies:
- Over complexity, so you are not aware of what the program is doing. Features
which you will never use slowing the machine up and causing problems
- It's always right. Even when you tell it to do the wrong thing, it will
always do it.
- Regular users are afraid to try to take advantage of all the possibilities.
- It is hard to leave alone.
- Tech Problems and Frustrations!
- Many people are losing the ability to do things by hand
- potential loss of privacy
- buggy software
- Blue Screen of Death! Enhanced Butt Bunions!
- gain weight from sitting here too much
- The technology is changing so fast it is hard to keep up with. I am always
drooling about the newest updates that I cannot afford.
- ability of others to harm your use of your own computer - virus, worms,
- how quickly they become outdated :(
- My eyesight is getting worse
- SLOW SLOW internet
- I tend to work too much. :)
- Why can't WIndows seal its installation, and not let other programs write
into windows directories. ALl third party stuff should be placed elsewhere
leaving a "virgin" windows install.
- I neglect other things such as housework, because I spend so much time on
- The way the #$%& things crash and burn.
- Having to share it.
- MS Operating system (Amiga OS was so very elegant!)
- Technology can go by so fast sometimes by the time you get to the point
you feel you are an advanced user the program is upgraded beyond what your
computer will allow and everybody passes you by.
- Just when you need it most - murphy's law will mean that it will fail in
- Like my wife, Mine doesn't understand me.
Ok, here's the bazillion dollar question. Don't mean to pick on Microsoft, as
many of these complaints can be dumped on many other software products and companies.
But when you're the biggest, you have the most users. And since most of what
we discuss in TechTrax is about Microsoft products, here's some of the things
you'd like improved!
- Ability to configure software to run in different modes - "Simple"
(if I'm just writing a memo or I'm a complete beginner), "Advanced",
"Reader" (optimised for onscreen reading).
- when security issues crop up, MS doesn't react without a lot of outside
- Make it cheaper so that all users could put it on their home computers.
The "educational pricing" should be the price for all purchasers.
- each application should come with some canned customizable VBA to perform
commonly used tasks used to automate other applications
- I think home users should be able to put their software on every machine
they own in their home.
- Fix the bugs and holes in it, develop a bug free, virus proof version.
- Firstly I would like to see microsoft make more of an effort to get into
screen readers as they design the programs that we tend to use most often
and they have made a start with narrator I think they could solve our shortfalls
so easily. If they insist in stayng out of that arena then collaborate more
with the testers and the suggestions offered by such people to overcome problems
in apps where forms, reports and cells are being used. Also more stable access
to programs like Visual Basic and the VBA code.
- get rid of all of the security issues so that people will quit slamming
OUtlook - it really is so much better than other programs.
- The update -- I just updated to Office XP and it wanted my 2000 CD -- which
I have no idea where it is??? What was wierd is that I had the full version
of Office XP so what did it matter WHAT i had before?? Goofy microsoft..
- I'd like for Uncle Bill to sit back happily counting his UncleBill-ions
while one of his brain trust characters devises a plan permitting the purchase
of one copy of Windows XP Professional, by any handicapped or elderly person,
for the normal, price and an additional license for each additional machine
for a modest (and I do mean MODEST) fee.I would even be pleased it they put
an age limit on those eligible. We ARE talking Social Security here.
- More error testing
- When you are constantly installing, de-installing etc, the garbage left
behind is unbelievable.
- Just would like to bounce the spam email before it is opened.
- I would like to be able to create a web site with FrontPage and know that
if I have to move if for whatever reason, I know it will function completely
and not have to worry if my available space has FP extensions enabled. It
has caused me grief enough that even though I like what the program offers,
I rarely use it anymore when I can design a site in Dreamweaver and upload
it any where.
- I'd like to see the prices drop according to the type of package. Currently
Windows 98SE and WindowsXP Prof. cost the same. Software for home use should
be cheaper. In SA the cost is the main reason for the high rate of software
piracy and it makes my life, as an honest technician, difficult. People don't
see why they should pay so much for their software that they cannot actually
afford decent hardware for their pc. In many cases the software (an OS and
Office package) will cost as much as a new computer (full system) and I think
this is ridiculous.
- I would like to see Agent technoogy built in by Microsoft so you can use
those cute little characters to read your chat messages, and I would like
to see video cam capabilities like Yahoo has.
- Better access to OS help files for screen reader
There were a lot more application specific comments and suggestions. Some we'll
be addressing in future articles, as some of the things folks wished they could
do, can be done with a little instructions. But it appears that the biggest
complaints are security and update issues, having to do with better testing
and the cost, particularly for home users and those on fixed incomes. Now that
everyone does have a computer as Bill Gates once envisioned, I, too,
think some of these pricing issues are important!