“01000101 01110110 01100101 01110010 01111001 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01101100 01100001 01110101 01100111 01101000 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01101110 01100101 01110010 01100100 01110011 00100000 01110101 01101110 01110100 01101001 01101100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 01111001 00100000 01101110 01100101 01100101 01100100 00100000 01101111 01101110 01100101” * – TM Petaccia

It started in the 1960’s as a defense project to link our military super-computers in the event any single computer was destroyed.

Soon we found more ways to interconnect computers in both our business and personal worlds. Society quickly moved into the digital age we now enjoy – or hate.

Today, with cloud computing, mobile devices, and the explosion of data, this growth has become exponential. It’s not moving in a straight line, but as a continually steeper curve, making it harder for us to keep up with each new change.

If you know Tom Petaccia, you know his personal avatar. Check out his website at tpetaccia.com
If you know Tom Petaccia, you know his personal avatar. Check out his website at tpetaccia.com

All this technology is not going away so we need to make the choice to cope.

Tom Petaccia is my friend, my webmaster, and my chief advisor on all things “technology-ish.”

Recently, I asked Tom what he thinks the most important things he, and his Nerd friends, want us Non-Nerds to know.

Here are his answers.

1. There’s a difference between storage and memory.

All the time I hear, “My computer said I didn’t have enough memory to do something, but even after I threw away a lot of files, it didn’t help.” Drives me nuts. Of course it didn’t. Memory refers to the amount of RAM a device has. The more memory, the more complex computer tasks a device can do – or the more applications and windows it can have open at the same time. Storage refers to your hard drive and the files on it: applications, documents, settings, etc. Throwing away files to solve a memory issue is like trying to put out an oven fire by unplugging the refrigerator.

Make sure you are addressing the correct issue.

2. If you lose files and don’t have a backup, it’s all your fault.

Hard drives fail, computers and phones get stolen, and devices sometimes just die.

An external hard drive will cost you $90-120 – a small price to pay to not lose your files forever. Both Windows (File History) and Mac (Time Machine) computers have excellent automatic backup built into their respective operating systems. Use ’em.

You can also take advantage of online backup services as well, but that would be a whole article in itself. Same for your phones. Backup. Backup. Backup.

3. For Pete’s sake, don’t use the same password everywhere!

You’re just begging to have your identity stolen. And no .. don’t think doing a slight variation is the answer either (Hamburger1, Hamburger2, etc). Also no kid’s names, dog’s names, birthdays .. anything that can be learned by looking at your Facebook profile, or even looking at a dictionary.

You need to get a password manager, something that will securely remember unique complex passwords, so you don’t have to. There are a few very good ones out there; my personal favorite is LastPass. But find one you have confidence in and use it.

A Close Call


A few months ago, my granddaughter, Elizabeth, spilled water all over her notebook computer, completely fried it, and you guessed it – never backed it up. Snap, crackle, pop: all her photos, her music, her schoolwork .. all her digital life .. were gone.

Fortunately, I know a guy.

I handed Tom Petaccia the deceased computer. He discovered that while the notebook’s logic board (computer parts, to you and me) was gone, the hard drive was still intact. He was able to recover the data and restore it to her new computer.

Here they are at Earl’s celebrating the happy ending.

Elizabeth was very lucky. You may not be so fortunate.

Be sure to back up all your digital devices.

4. Don’t conduct private business in a public location.

Accessing your bank records while using the free wifi at Earl’s Grocery, or any other public place, is not a good idea. Even in the best of places, bad people can lurk. Public wifi nodes can be hacked with relative ease. Watch one or two episodes of Mr. Robot and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Save your private information computing for home. If you absolutely have to access sensitive information on the road, use your phone provider’s data connection rather than public wifi.

5. Learn, don’t guess.

If your philosophy of learning how to use your computer, phone, tablet, and their various applications is, “Practice Makes Perfect,” you’re wrong. Very wrong. At best, all that accomplishes is learning to do something the hard way – maybe. As any golf or tennis teaching pro will tell you: Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Take the time to learn correctly. YouTube offers a plethora of instructional videos for free. If you prefer a more structured environment, check out lynda.com.

6. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be stubborn.

Technology shouldn’t be something you dread, or resent. If you follow the advice in Step 5, and take the time to learn, you’ll see the numerous wonderful benefits of using your digital devices to their ultimate potential. Think of your car. You need to know certain things to make a safe and enjoyable experience for you: where the accelerator and brake pedals are, where to put in the gasoline, how to turn on the windshield wipers and headlights. Do you need to know how to tear down a transmission? No. But you do need to know certain things. Same with your computer or phone. The more you learn, the more you love.

So there you have Tom’s Six Things Nerds Want Us to Know.

But, I must add my #7. Know a Nerd. If you don’t have one, find one. Sure, having AppleCare on speed dial is fine but sometimes you need the hands on talent only the right Nerd can provide. Just ask my granddaughter.

What’s your experience with computers – love ‘um or hate ‘um? What role do they play in your life versus three or five years ago?

Can you see how more and more of our daily lives are being impacted by technology, and can you tell me how this change makes you feel?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran


It happened to Sarah Jessica Parker in 2008, and it still happens today. Are you ready when it happens to you?

*Part of being a nerd is not necessarily knowing the answers, but knowing where to find the answers. To the first person who posts a comment below with the correct translation of the this binary quote (before October 31, 2016), Tom will personally email a $25.00 gift card to Amazon.com – where you can get all sorts of nerd goodies!