On Computers

My Most Important Computer Tool

Jack Imsdahl, 'daWabbit' jack@oncomputers.info

2 February 2003

Years ago, when I first started hanging around in the old MSN Windows 95/98 Talkshop chat, Al_K would talk about his notebooks and looking stuff up in them. Eventually, I asked him what information he kept in his book and started keeping such a record myself.

(I hope this doesn't embarrass you, Al, but it was a really important lesson to me and I want to credit you.)

As time has passed, I have come to regard this notebook as my most important computer tool. 

Friends (Deepak in particular) seem able to remember every detail about their operating systems and the computers upon which they work. (You won't often catch him out on this score. I know, having relied on his memory many times.) My 50-something year old brain is often inclined to forget such things, especially in times of stress; such as when one or the other computer acts up on deadline day. Having everything written down in front of me has proven itself, over and over. I even take the book with me on service calls and write down details of work done there, also.

I don't keep this information on the computer, fearing some catastrophe will prevent me getting at the information in a timely manner.

My book is a simple 5-inch by 9-inch loose-leaf notebook with large rings. The ends of the book are filled with various printouts of how-tos or configuration information. The entries are cryptic, which is permissible, seeing as only my wife and I are intended readers and we already know at least a good part of what's written there, meaning the entries only have to jog our memories. Because we don't have to worry about the physical security of our premises, I used to keep password information, etc. in there, until Gail explained how easy it was to keep such things on an unmarked and encrypted floppy disk. 

(We are thinking of doing one or more tips segments on encryption. Please write us and let us know if you would like to hear about this subject.)

At the minimum, I keep bios configuration information (only those settings which are not defaults, to keep down the work of noting things). Bios version, updates installed, etc. are very important at times, to help figure out what might be going wrong or need updating on a computer.

I keep a record of operating system installation and any configurations there that are not defaults. Software installations and un-installations are recorded, also, as are any configuration information I might need to reinstall. 

If you think of it, you'll know what you need to record. I found that once in the habit, doing this came naturally enough and took only a very small amount of time, which was repaid ten-fold when I needed to use the book in some recovery or another. Try it. I think you will find it eminently useful.



© 2003 Jack Imsdahl

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