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Tips Of The Day For January 1998

Tip Of The Day For January 29, 1998: CPU prices are taking another nice drop this week, so this is a good time to look at a possible upgrade. Just bear in mind the law of diminishing returns with respect to CPU clock speed when the system bus speed remains the same--the difference in performance between a Pentium II 333 and a Pentium II 266 is quite small in most cases. See here for more on CPU performance.

Tip Of The Day For January 27, 1998: If your system is running slower than it used to, check for excessive toy infestation. :^) Most people add many utilities and tools and other neat-o software tools to their system over time. The cumulative effect of these can be to consume a significant amount of system resources and memory, which slows down the machine. Try to cut out tools that "hang around" but that you don't really use. It can make a real difference, it's simple, and it's free.

Tip Of The Day For January 26, 1998: Viruses are a serious matter and it is important to be concerned with them. I recommend scanning your system for viruses on a regular basis. However, beware of virus hoaxes. There are chain letters that go around and around the Internet for years, talking about how if you read an email message you will get a virus. The most common ones are called "Join The Crew" or "Good Times". These are almost always hoaxes, and in many ways, the "warning" itself is the virus because it gets passed on to so many people. I have written a section discussing virus hoaxes that you can read here.

Tip Of The Day For January 24, 1998: I recently "fixed" someone's dead monitor. The power would go on but nothing would display on the screen. The owner of the screen was sure it was dead. I examined it, and discovered that the brightness and contrast controls had been turned all the way down. Always remember to check the simple things first!

Tip Of The Day For January 22, 1998: If you are mounting a PS/2 mouse port connector into an AT-style case, you normally mount it into an expansion slot. I recently discovered that even though the PS/2 connector is round, the port itself can be mounted into a standard 9-pin serial port hole on your case, if you have an extra one. This will save you from wasting an expansion slot.

Tip Of The Day For January 20, 1998: When you are ordering components to assemble your own PC, you can often find great deals at various mail order companies. One item that it often makes sense to buy locally, however, is the system case. Most companies that make PCs will sell them to you, and the shipping cost on these is very high relative to the cost of the item. Be sure to check the case out well, some of them are very cheapo and you'll regret it.

Tip Of The Day For January 18, 1998: As most of you know, there was recently a very serious ice storm in North America, affecting eastern Canada and the north-eastern-most areas of the U.S.A. This has been a horrible situation for most of those affected and I hope that if any of my readers were involved, that they are able to get their lives back to speed quickly. While far from the most serious problem as a result of this storm, I have recently read reports about serious damage being done to PCs that were turned on while still very cold from being left in an unheated home or business for many days. When you turn on a cold PC, it heats up rapidly, leading to condensation that can cause catastrophic damage. You must always allow the PC to acclimate to room temperature before turning it on. The same goes for a new PC or monitor received by mail order.

Tip Of The Day For January 15, 1998: I had a PC blow up on me today (well, not literally, but the hard disk got munched). Fortunately, the user had backups of his hard disk. Unfortunately, the last time he had made a backup was last October. Have you backed up your PC recently? If not, maybe you need to change your backup plan to make backups easier. Check out this section for ideas.

Tip Of The Day For January 14, 1998: A reader recently wrote to me telling me about his experiences with a dealer. The dealer told him that parity memory was superior to non-parity memory and so he should upgrade from non-parity to parity memory. Now as I discuss here, I do consider parity memory to be superior to non-parity. The problem is that you must have a motherboard that supports parity; most today do not, including this gentleman's system. So he basically got taken. Make sure that if you want to use parity that the motherboard and chipset support it.

Tip Of The Day For January 12, 1998: Most people know about the software utility PKZIP, which lets you compress most types of files. This handy tool is very useful for transferring files to other PCs. However, sometimes you want to send files to someone else who may not own PKUNZIP, the tool needed to reverse the process. If this is the case, you can use the ZIP2EXE tool that is included in the PKZIP package. This will convert the ZIP file to a self-extracting EXE file, which anyone can run to uncompress the files.

Tip Of The Day For January 11, 1998: I often find myself called to troubleshoot an older PC that has suddenly slowed down dramatically. The user says the PC just suddenly started crawling and has no idea why. At least 50% of the time when this happens, it turns out that the user accidentally hit the turbo button, turning off turbo mode which of course, drags the PC down substantially. If you find yourself doing this often, you may find reading this optimization section informative.

Tip Of The Day For January 10, 1998: It is common when configuring a new system on a budget to have to make some tough tradeoffs. One quick word of advice: go with quality where it matters. It is often better for the key components to get good ones even if they offer a bit less performance than to go for "high-powered junk". Another general piece of advice: don't skimp on memory. A 166-MHz chip with 64 MB of RAM is going to offer better overall performance than a 200-MHz one with 32 MB, almost every time.

Tip Of The Day For January 8, 1998: Today's tip is a bit of a continuation of yesterday's. :^) Someone wrote to me to tell me that to get quickly to a DOS prompt when booting Windows 95, you only need press {Shift}+{F5} when the boot starts. You don't have to press {F8} first to bring up the boot menu. I should have known this but I didn't. Oh well. :^)

Tip Of The Day For January 7, 1998: I use Windows 95 and sometimes I find myself needing to access my files quickly when the machine is off. I don't want to wait for the whole boot cycle, so here's what I do. Just before the system boots the operating system from the hard disk, I hit {F8}. This brings up the Windows 95 menu. Then I press {Shift}+{F5}. This bypasses all the startup files and dumps me straight into DOS. Useful for quickly copying a file or checking a setting. I always reboot the system completely afterwards (or simply turn it off).

Tip Of The Day For January 6, 1998: How much do you know about the Year 2000 problem? We are now less than two years away from January 1, 2000. The end of the millennium will be one of the most interesting times for all of us who live through it, and it will pose many problems that all of us need to be aware of, especially those of us in the computer field. Do you know what your business is doing about Y2K? I'd recommend that everyone check out this website devoted to the Year 2000, as well as the Usenet newsgroup comp.software.year-2000.

Tip Of The Day For January 2, 1998: I helped a friend out with a hard disk problem recently. He asked me to take a look at it because he couldn't boot Windows 95. The first thing he should have done was to stop using the PC and then test it for both viruses and file system errors. Unfortunately, he instead did a whole series of bizarre things, including reinstalling the operating system and then trying to reinstall both DOS and Windows 3.x! By the time I got to the machine, it was a horrible mess. I coudn't recover anything. The moral of the story is that when you are having serious problems with your hard disk you should not do anything rash to try to resolve the problem. The other moral is that when you are having serious problems and know someone who knows a lot about PCs, call him before you make such a huge mess that he can't even help you. :^)

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