FACTS! FAX! 010 (18/06/96)
I recently upgraded to Windows 95 and my 486/33Mhz PC is struggling to
cope, so I'm going to increase the size of the memory from 8 to 16 megabytes.
Will EDO RAM make my machine run any faster than normal DRAM?
Fast EDO (Extended Data Out) RAM chips can give a noticeable improvement
in speed -- up to 10% in some cases -- but unfortunately they only work
properly on recent Pentium PCs, fitted with PCI motherboards; (sorry about all
the acronyms, PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interface). They would make
little or no difference to the performance of your machine.
With the possibility of a postal strike looming I'm considering upgrading
my company's fax facilities. At the moment we have just one rather old BT
machine. Can you tell me if there's any advantage in using a PC, instead of a
dedicated fax machine, and will it be any faster?
It depends. If you send and receive a lot of material, that originate on,
or will end up inside a PC -- documents, invoices and so on -- then a PC fax
can be very convenient. It should also be quicker as there's no need to print
or file paper copies. If you want to send documents on paper, such as
hand-written material, diagrams or photographs, you will also need a scanner,
and they can be quite time consuming to use, especially if you're using an
older or slower machine.
In order to receive faxes out of office hours you will have to leave the
PC switched on, so it's probably not going to work out any cheaper, even taking
into account the cost of fax paper. The price of fax machines has plummeted in
recent years, so depending on the nature of your business there could well be a
case for using both types, assuming your BT machine is now past it.
You can also send faxes from your PC via the Internet. It's not as fast
-- they can take several minutes or hours to arrive -- but it can be very
cost-effective, especially if you send a lot of faxes overseas, as you will
only pay local call rates.
Every time I switch on my mobile phone -- a Nokia 2110 -- warbling noises
come from the tuner on my hi-fi system. Is this a fault? Could anyone else pick
up these signals, listen in to my conversations, or obtain my number?
This is normal. The noises you're hearing are generated by the phone
logging on to the network, telling the system where it is and that it's ready
to receive calls. Although your radio cannot tune into the frequency bands used
by cellphones, the signal from your phone is strong enough to break through to
the sensitive circuits inside the tuner. This usually only happens when the
phone is in very close proximity to a radio.
Information sent to and from your cellphone -- including speech --
is digitally encoded, so it's
reasonably secure from eavesdroppers and cloners. Transmissions from cellphones
-- both analogue and digital types -- can also interfere with other items of
electronic equipment, including TVs PCs, camcorders and aircraft navigation
systems, thatís why youíre not allowed to use them on planes.
SKY'S THE LIMIT
I've heard it's possible to use a PC to unscramble satellite movie
channels. Where can I get more information, purely for research of course.
Sorry, you're too late. A year or so ago BSKYB were having a lot of
problems with TV hackers. A number of programs, with names like Season and
Voyager, were widely available on the Internet, but SKY issued new, more secure
viewing cards to subscribers and the unscrambling software doesn't work
anymore. Most of the 'hacks' were written by German and Dutch programmers,
frustrated by the non availability
of BSKYB's subscriptions outside the
The programs, which worked on almost any PC (including old 286 models),
didn't actually unscramble the signal, instead they cleverly managed to
persuade satellite receivers -- connected to a PC by a modified viewing card
-- that a legitimate card was in use.
The word on the web is that real-time unscrambling may be possible with the
next generation of super-fast Pentium PC, however since they're likely to cost
in excess of £2000, it's a lot cheaper
to take out a subscription. Interesting
background information (sorry, no programs) and some quite heated discussions
can be found on Internet newsgroups such as: alt.satellite.tv.europe