FACTS! FAX! 087 (03/12 /97)
am student at University and would like to buy a PC with multimedia capability.
I was thinking of buying the components and building it myself but as far as I
could see this wouldn’t save me a lot of money. The University computer lab
technician -- a very wise man -- says that you can save up to 40%. Any ideas?
kind of saving might just have been possible four or five years ago, but not
any more. Companies putting together PCs have tremendous buying power, and
there’s intense competition, so high street prices are very low. You might be
able to save a few pounds, building a machine from off-the shelf components --
even at current retail prices -- but you couldn’t match the kind of package deals,
that include several hundred pounds worth of software, or peripherals, like
printers and digital cameras.
machines also come with a guarantee and some sort of service backup -- though
that can be a mixed blessing... They’ve usually been soak-tested and the
operating system should be pre-installed. That’s not to say building a PC isn’t
a worthwhile exercise. It is, particularly if you can scavenge some parts to
keep the cost down. Cases and power supplies, keyboards, mice and monitors can
usually be safely recycled. It’s not difficult and you get the exact
specification that you require. It can be very rewarding, especially if it
works first time; if it doesn’t, you’ll have the opportunity to learn all about
PC fault-finding. If you’re determined to go ahead there are several books on
the subject worth perusing first, including ‘Building Your Own PC, (Abacus
Software), ‘Build Your Own Pentium
Processor PC’ (McGraw-Hill) and ‘Build Your Own Computer’ (Wordware
Publishing). They are available from
computer stores, or you can order them on-line from companies like Computer
Manual Ltd at: http://www.compman.co.uk
your answer to Alec Davis (F!F!F! 25/11/97) you give good reasons why we should
switch computers off when not in use. However, I have read that damage to hard
drives tends to occur at start-up and switch-off, when their speed changes; is
that true? If so does the balance favour leaving the machine on?
V Kumar, Milton Keynes Hospital, Milton
change has little to do with it, but it is fair to say that electronic and
electromechanical components are more prone to failure at switch-on, due to
power surges and sudden changes in temperature. However, the counter argument
is when a PC is switched on, the clock is ticking. All of the parts inside a PC
have finite lives, which are shortened by heat, vibration and mechanical wear.
The best advice is not to switch a PC on and off during the day or more often
than is absolutely necessary. If a PC
isn’t doing anything useful at night, switch it off.
have an Apple Powermac 7600, a Psion palmtop computer and I recently acquired
an Olympus Digital camera. I am regularly frustrated by having to grub around
on my knees, under a creaking desk, in stygian darkness, while I search the
posterior of my computer, to change leads so that I can back up my Psion, or
download pictures from the camera. It is so awkward and undignified! I am
concerned that the pins will eventually break on the serial port, there has to
be a better way? Are all computers designed with only two serial ports - even
expensive ones? Your advice would be
much appreciated, especially if your recommendation does not involve shelling
out yet more cash!
some spending is involved, but not much. Your best bet is a serial switch-box,
a small device that will allow two or more devices to share one of the PC’s
serial ports. Two-way switchers are widely available from most PC suppliers for
around £12 to £15; three-way models cost a little more.
recently purchased a colour flatbed scanner. The main reason for selecting the
model was that, according to the salesperson I spoke to, it didn’t need an
interface card. It plugs into the PC’s printer port; the printer, a Canon BJC
4000 plugs into a parallel port on the back of the scanner. However, when
connected as instructed, the BJC 4000 will only print an A4 page full of
gobbledegook characters. Both scanner and printer work perfectly when connected
to the PC on their own. I took a sample printout to PC World, where it came
from, and they then told me the printer will not work in this manner. Are they
correct, do I need another parallel port?
G. Rogers, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham.
tell us there are no known compatibility problems with the BJC 4000 and
scanners with a parallel through-port, but their helpline have had a number of
similar enquiries. In a few cases it has turned out to be a problem with the port
connections, though the most common cause has been the poor quality cables
supplied with some budget scanners, which have either been turned out to be
faulty, or in some instances not fully wired. In any case you should return the
scanner as it clearly doesn’t work as described.