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Tips Of The Day For March 2000

Tip Of The Day For March 31, 2000: A company called P. I. Engineering makes a useful device called the Y-mouse. It's named for its shape, and lets you duplex a pair of mice or a mouse and keyboard into a single PS/2 mouse/keyboard port. Very useful for laptops.

Tip Of The Day For March 29, 2000: Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes) protect your system and your data from power problems and interruptions. With the cost of UPSes dropping down into the "very affordable" range, it's worth considering one if you've never had one before. You can read much more about them in the section on UPSes.

Tip Of The Day For March 26, 2000: To avoid problems later on if you add an additional hard disk drive to your system, always set CD-ROM/DVD or other device drive letters "higher up" in the alphabet. If you leave a CD-ROM drive as "D:" in a Windows 9x system with just one hard disk, if you add another later on it will become D: and the CD-ROM E:, which can break software that is looking for the CD-ROM in a particular place. See here for more on this.

Tip Of The Day For March 24, 2000: Items purchased with mail-in rebates can be a great deal, even letting you get "free stuff"--but only if you actually get the rebate. Most companies are honest and will return the rebate check, but they often take their time doing so, and it's easy to forget that you have a check coming. A good idea is to keep a spreadsheet listing your pending rebates, when you sent them in and when the check is expected. Also make note of any phone numbers you should call if the check doesn't show up; they are normally listed right on the rebate form. Make sure you fill out the form correctly.

Tip Of The Day For March 21, 2000: Beware clueless service technicians--there are a lot of them out there. A dead giveaway of a technician that has no idea what your problem is and is trying the "shotgun approach" is when the technician tells you that you need a new component of one type, and then when that doesn't fix the problem he tells you to replace another component, and then another. This happens too often and is very rarely necessary. If you have a bad hard disk and the technician tells you that you need a CPU upgrade for example, be very suspicious. Worse, while most technicians are generally honest, some will invent "fixes" that require you to buy hardware from them under duress, often at inflated prices.

Tip Of The Day For March 18, 2000: If you have one hard disk in your system, and it contains more than one partition, you should take care when adding a second drive under Windows 9x. Partition the new drive using only logical drives in an extended DOS partition; if you create a primary partition on the new drive, it will be assigned "D:" at boot time, which will change the letters of the all the partitions on the first drive other than "C:". See here for more on drive lettering.

Tip Of The Day For March 16, 2000: Your backup scheme should always include at least two media sets. If you only have one backup then every time you are running your backup software to update it, if there is a serious problem you risk losing everything.

Tip Of The Day For March 14, 2000: A fundamental rule of hard disk drive failure detection: hard disks don't generally change in their characteristics from day to day. If a drive suddenly begins to behave in a way that is different from the way it has in the past--in terms of sound, heat level, performance, or whatever else--that is a sign that you may have a problem. Immediately make a clean backup (two if possible), scan the file system for errors, and if necessary, contact your drive manufacturer's technical support department.

Tip Of The Day For March 11, 2000: Both Intel and AMD announced 1 GHz processors this week, which is a "milestone" of sorts. Humans are fascinated by round numbers, so it's no surprise that both companies fought tooth and nail to be the first to announce these new, faster CPUs. Bear in mind a couple of things though, as you read all the hype, that announcing a CPU and actually shipping it are two different things. Especially in this case, the companies have probably moved up their announcements weeks to months earlier than when they would normally announce a new CPU based on their capacity to actually deliver it.

Tip Of The Day For March 8, 2000: Before paying exorbitant prices for small components like jumpers, screws, mounting standoffs and simple cables (such as a standard 40-pin IDE cable) check a local PC assembly and repair shop. Many will be happy to give you jumpers, screws and the like for free, since they end up with a huge box full of them over time. Many others will sell you these bits and pieces for a nominal fee, usually much less than it would cost you to buy a blister pack of them at a full-service computer store.

Tip Of The Day For March 6, 2000: Remember to consider statistical significance when comparing benchmark results of similar hardware components. This means that you must take into account the inherent error in making any measurement, especially with a small sample size. One cannot generalize from a single test on one "product A" and one "product B" that results in their benchmarks falling within a couple of percentage points of each other. And that of course leaves aside the fact that most users won't notice a difference in overall system performance of less than about 10% anyway.

Tip Of The Day For March 3, 2000: When removing a jumper from a motherboard, hard disk drive or other component, leave it "dangling" if possible from the unit by pushing one side (only) of the jumper over an unused jumper pin. This will ensure that if you need the jumper again in the future you'll be able to find it. Just make sure it isn't going to make inadvertent contact with anything it shouldn't touch.


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