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The Path to Pwn

So, you've just bought a PC from Dixons, or maybe spotted one of those superb online deals at Dell where you get a free photo printer or some little plastic thing called a USB key and you're thinking you're a god-damned freedom fighting adventurer of the Information Superhighway. You're elite, certainly not lame and you look forward to owning people a great deal.

Well, the first thing is to stop talking like something out of the specials board in an Internet Cafe and start listening. So, in no particular order, here's the definitive top ten things you need to do to turn you from a fragile little newbie into an arse-kicking Computing expert.

"Having the 'Red Moon Desert' wallpaper might look cool to you, however should any of your kids teenage mates come round to check out your 'rig', you might as well just buy a copy of Ultimate PC Monopoly and be done with it."

1. Deride everyone you just sucked up to in the local electronics store

Remember, you're now an expert and experts never ask for help in PC World under any circumstances. At the first opportunity, when approached by an enthusiastic employee who asks "Can I help you?", scoff contemptuously and say "I don't think so" whilst wandering over to the individual components section. When he's not looking you can shuffle over to the Photo Paper and budget games.

Clearly PC World cottoned onto the so called 'experts' by actually stocking components and modding equipment, so if you feel out of your depth stroll over to Dixons (pick one where you didn't get your Packard Bell from) and hassle the 18-year old computing guy by asking if they sell SATA Hard Disk drives. (It doesn't matter you don't know what they are, he won't either) When he begins to flounder, let him off the hook by asking for what you're really after (probably a CD Case for 10 discs) under the pretense of it being a present for your nephew.

2. Never ever buy novelty computer products

No-one who has any PC experience owns any of the following:
  • Homer Simpson Mousemat
  • A mouse-holder that sticks on the side of your monitor
  • A CD-Case for anything less than 300 discs
  • New Floppy Disks (Any floppy disks must be at least 10 years old)
  • Screen Wipes (Toilet paper and spit)
  • USB Card reader in the shape of any Disney Character
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Wrist Rest
  • Monitor Stands with trays for paper clips
  • Anything you see in the inserts inside 'What's On TV'
  • Anything under £15 which says 'Revolutionary' on the box.

3. Only have one of four types of Desktop Background

Real people do not have pictures of their family, pets, football team or where they went on holiday as their desktop and they certainly don't have any of the ones which come with Windows. Having the 'Red Moon Desert' wallpaper might look cool to you, however should any of your kids teenage mates come round to check out your 'rig', you might as well just buy a copy of Ultimate PC Monopoly and be done with it.

Common protocol is to have either an abstract background from Deviant Art, any kind of soft-core pornography, anything you can unrealistically hope to own (such as a Ferrari Enzo or Hilary Duff) or eschew one completely and have a plain colour, however this can only be black, white or any shade of dark purple (certainly no Teal). Music wallpapers are acceptable provided anyone who visits will never have heard of the band you're promoting.

4. Live your tortured life through MSN titles

Blogs are all well and good, however you actually need people to give half a toss about you in the first place to bother reading them. With MSN titles, everyone you consider a friend, acquaintance or even just someone who you accidentally added when browsing My Space can now see what kind of mood you're in. Absolutely exaggerate everything which has happened in your day and round it into a concise title. So, if you had a really nice breakfast before going out for the day to the zoo, say "Oats + Goats FTW". If you really can't think of anything, then put something completely random or vague that will MAKE people talk to you to inquire, like "15 Seconds then it's all over". They don't need to know you're referring to the microwave Macaroni Cheese you're making.

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Chris Caines


5. Never use any screen resolution under 1280x960

1024x768 makes you look like you just bought your PC, 800x600 makes you look like you got given your PC by someone else who upgraded. Never run in anything under 1280x960 and if possible 1600x1200. If you have a 15" CRT then still run it in 1280x, but use 60Hz and a magnifying glass. If you have a TFT with a native resolution of less, then go out and buy another one, two screens is hardcore enough to make up for it.

6. Don't use the services which come with your PC or ISP

There's nothing inherently wrong with using Yahoo or Blueyonder Email, however using what comes with it because it's easiest makes you look like a cop-out. If you're using BT Broadband, have a Google account; if it comes with Hotmail, use Yahoo. In the same vein, if you have the Google Toolbar installed, remove it and use the MSN equivalent. Never, EVER have two toolbars going.

7. Have complete confidence in your system.

Reading the recommended system specs from the back of F.E.A.R. in your local GAME store screams doubt and uncertainty. Never browse in a game shop, pick up the game you want, take it to the till and when you're asked if you know it will work with your PC, say "Yep" absent-mindedly, like he's asking you if you know how to breathe in and out. When you get it home and find it runs like a dog, simply sell the game on eBay.

8. Avoid embarrassment by not having to know when to use computing units

Instead of saying "60 Megabytes" when someone asks you how big your hard disk is, just start with Giga- for everything based on the size of the component. Something small like RAM or a memory key can be 1Gb, your CPU is 3GHz and your hard disk can be 80Gb. It doesn't matter if they're not as no-one will check, but it saves you from saying "128 Kilomegs" when you're describing how much RAM you have.

"When you're asked if you know it will work with your PC, say "Yep" absent-mindedly, like he's asking you if you know how to breathe in and out. When you get it home and find it runs like a dog, simply sell the game on eBay"

9. Don't stick your tongue out when you're browsing web sites

Time and time again, this little sucker gives people away. When you're concentrating, lots of people involuntarily wave their tongue around like it's trying to escape. The last thing you want people to think is that you're concentrating on trying to use the Internet.

To get around this, constantly have a can of cola or packet of Jaffa Cakes to hand (this also helps with keeping your working area sticky and full of crumbs, which is also important). Whenever you need to get your head around the pop-up which says your computer is infected with spyware, stick a Jaffa Cake in. Then whilst you hover over 'Yes, please put me in a situation where I have to call my friend's son for help' and the more obvious X icon in the corner, you can look like you're just perusing Google.

10. Finally the one key rule about being a master of home computing

Never play Minesweeper. This will blow your cover before you even start.

Now, get out there and 'pwn' those 'lam3rs'... and turn off that ridiculous office assistant.