... a bit Suffolk
|th 14 Sep|
When upgrading a hard or solid state disc Acronis is really useful for cloning the old disc to new and these days the software doesn't even have to be on bootable media. Unfortunately when we left it installed on a desktop after a SSD upgrade the pc kept freezing, uninstalling Acronis fixed the problem.
|sa 5 Nov|
We fitted a second graphics card to our previous desktop PC so we could run two monitors. Unplugging this desktop recently we were embarrassed to see it already had two display sockets. We'd failed to notice the second socket as it wasn't VGA. The multiplicity of display connectors listed and explained on this useful (if cluttered) web page.
|sa 13 Feb|
We had a desktop pc this week that would only repeatedly beep at start up nothing else. On the basis it's usually the cpu we swapped the cpu but the beeping continued so then we pulled the ram from position 2 but still no change. Now we replaced the ram in position 1 with the ram module pulled from position two and that fixed it ... should have done that first.
|mo 21 Dec|
We use a Netgear ReadyNas (Network Attached Storage device) for backup. It can recover your data if a hard disc fails or as last week we upgraded one of the four hard drives from 1Tb to 2Tb but if in a moment of madness you remove two drives whilst powered up you lose everything. Thankfully we still have the source but scary how easily we lost a backup.
|we 11 Mar|
A solid state disc (SSD) has to be faster than a hard disc as there's no read/write head that has to move. A SSD also draws less power because it doesn't have to rotate a disc and for the same reason an SSD is effectively silent.
If you followed our suggestion below to move your data onto a second drive you may find that the first and system drive can be small enough capacity that a SSD substitute becomes affordable, we got away with a £100 256Gb SSD from Crucial plus £18 for the install kit. It did speed things up but we found three gotchas:
1: the Acronis cloning software supplied with the install kit is in fact a download and it wasn't that straightforward registering it,
2: the SSD needs partitioning before formatting (obvious but it caught us out), and
3: the 2.5" to 3.5" adapter is too short to fit properly into some 3.5" cages.
|sa 3 Jan|
Perhaps obvious but if your wireless mouse/keyboard gobbles batteries get some rechargeable batteries and a charger. Rechargeable batteries come in different flavours determined by the mAh rating, that's milliampere-hour, the higher the mAh rating (2000 mAh for a AA is getting high) the longer the battery will last before it needs to be charged ... and the more it will cost. There are also precharged rechargeables that will hold a charge when not in use sometimes up to a year allegedly, relevant when you want to hold ready to go spares.
If your hard disc is starting to fill up with family photos you could replace it with a larger drive but perhaps a better way is to install a second drive and move your photos on to that. A second drive has the advantages you don't have to clone the original drive and if the system drive crashes you still have the family pix on the second drive. A possible gotcha is you might seem to already have a second disc drive but it's actually two partitions on the same physical drive. The way to be clear is to go Start/Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Computer Management/Disk Management
|th 30 Oct|
If you pull hard enough on an Ethernet network lead it will come out but you've probably broken off the bit on the socket that keeps the plug in place. What you should do is press the 'tongue' down to release the plug. Whilst we're here the 'tongue' has a satanic need to catch on things and snaps off when you pull so it's worth getting plugs with a protective shroud on them like the blue one on the right.
|tu 7 Oct|
If you've got a monitor leftover from an upgrade twenty quid odd will buy a display adaptor with more than one output so your desktop can run two monitors. Two gotchas; if your desktop is slimline/small form you'll need the display adaptor to fit (some come with slimline plates for you to fit), and the DVI to VGA adaptor you're likely to need is a couple of quid on ebay and thirteen quid at Currys/PC World.
|th 25 Sep|
Hopefully you know about Have you tried turning it off and on again? It should work with anything that has control programming ... washing machines, digital cameras, cars. Here at ntc we prefer the more pro Have you tried turning it off, counting to ten and turning it back on again? The counting to ten is to give your unconscious a chance to point out that it's you not the device.
|mo 14 Jul|
Spent a good lump of time on remote assistance this week (remote assistance kept giving up) fixing a Samsung laptop with an HP all-in-one printer that wouldn't scan. The problem was a universal Samsung printer driver had been installed on the laptop not an HP printer driver. You install the driver for the device not the computer.
|mo 9 Jun|
The bundled in with broadband BT router became very unreliable and the man on the phone agreed it was a hardware problem and guess what out of warranty so we replaced it with an old Netgear router still in a drawer. The Netgear like the BT router gets hot so using significant power but unlike the BT router doesn't go standby at night ... so we turn it off at night.
|th 28 Mar|
The BT £1.30 go faster wall socket plug in arrived just a few days after we ordered it but it's taken us until now to fit it - the master socket was buried behind stuff. Fitting should be straight forward, undo the two screws holding the front socket in, pull it out, plug in the gofaster jobbie, plug the front socket back in and use the supplied longer screws to hold it in.
We did some wired and wireless before and after measurements and to be honest no real improvement though in a house with loads of electrical running it could make a difference. What did make a difference was disconnecting the wiring running to wall sockets in three other rooms, speeded up the download by 10%, that'll stay disconnected now all the phones are cordless.
|tu 11 Sep|
One of computing's general rules is cheap hardware comes with cheap software (and not necessarily only the cheap hardware). A while back we bought a really cheap Targus wireless mouse and more recently a cheap Microsoft wireless keyboard/mouse combo in Tesco. They both work ok but neither seem to have any support software so the mouse wheel click and the keyboard's special keys can't be reassigned ... just saying.
|fr 20 Jul|
Before going on holiday unplug the telephone line side of your router to stop you coming home to find all your bandwidth has been stolen or a thunderstorm has damaged the router, and while you're at it turn the router off to stop it being hacked while you're away ... no that's alright, we'll look at the snaps of you on a camel on Facebook if that's ok.
|tu 6 Dec|
If you haven't defragmented your Windows XP hard disc for a bit it's a good idea even if defrag says you don't need to, hopefully it will speed up disc access. You should be able to find Disk Defragmenter in Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools but if it's gone missing you can run it from a command window by going Start/Run, enter cmd in the Open: text window and then dfrg.msc at the > prompt.
|fr 27 Apr|
The Sinclair ZX Speccy was 30 on Monday. We never had one having already gone BBC but we did have have a ZX81 which to save a few bob run off a car battery charger we'd dodged up. Once when fiddling with the ZX81 a mature visitor advised us to get an outside aerial (you used your telly as the monitor). 'It's a computer Pete.' 'Oh, dirty videos.' 'No Pete, it's a computer.' 'Yes ... have you got an outside aerial?''
|su 2 Oct|
USB external hard discs that don't need a separate power supply (they get power from the USB socket) keep getting physically smaller, their storage capacity bigger and cheaper; fifty quid should get you a 500Gig one. They are just such an easy way to back up or move data about you should have one ... and they don't have to come in black or dark grey.
|tu 5 Jan|
Before you throw your dial up modem away do remember it's what you use to send a fax, and even now we find occasionally we still have to (the police still use faxes for some things, why?) If your pc came without a dial up modem the fax software will need to be installed from Printers and Faxes.
|we 21 Oct|
We often encounter laptop users who either don't know you can tap the touchpad for a click or have turned it off because they can't control it. The Apple Magic Mouse isn't going to help them but it does seem controlling a computer is moving on ... finally
|we 30 Sep|
We've just checked Freeview and as predicted by Fat Ginge Channel 5 had gone missing, it didn't reappear after a channel scan but reception's rubbish here in Stately Terrace, worse during the day and even worserer in this dry weather. Hopefully night time and perhaps some rain will improve the situation.
|fr 21 Aug|
This is the netbook Lady KRJ bought herself, it's much smaller than a laptop and stunningly light implying the battery doesn't have a lot of clout, no cd/dvd drive so installing apps would need external stuff, it cost just over £300 and despite the seemingly tiny 10" screen you can do real stuff on it. Nice one Lady K.
|su 12 Jul|
When you've had your laptop a while and it starts to slow down it's because the hard disc needs cleaning up. We do ours on the Delicates cycle, it's much safer to use a non-bio powder and of course never put it in the tumble dryer but dry naturally.
|mo 22 Jun|
When you come to throw a computer away it's the hard disc that contains information you may not want fraudsters, blackmailers or your wife to know. If your soon to be discarded pc is a desktop (not a laptop) then the hard disc will look like one of these. Open the pc box (usually by removing phillips screws but sometimes by just pressing the right bit) and there'll most probably be a grey ribbon hanging out of the hard disc to help identify it. There'll probably be more phillips screws going into the side of the disc drive which when removed allow the drive to slide out. Now you need to seriously damage the green printed circuit board that controls the disc, break bits off with a screwdriver or pliers or beat it with a large object till they fall off. The info is still on the disc inside the case but you'd have to be pretty devoted to repair the pcb to get at it.
|we 24 Dec|
It's always been an attractive idea to use the power wiring in your house as a network because it's already there, indeed we had an intercom system that did just that and worked some of the time. There's a new standard promising 200Mbits/second on the power lines, if it delivers could be very interesting.