Houston We Have a Problem… 002 16/09/06


Core Business Explained

Can you explain, preferably in English, what a Dual Core processor is, and whether or not I need one? I will be replacing my Windows 98 computer within the next few weeks and I don’t want to buy obsolete technology, nor do I want to pay for something that I do not need.

Gregory Taylor, Northampton



As the name implies Dual Core or Core 2 processors are two processors in one. Central processor unit or CPU speeds used to double every two or three years but they’re starting to level off now as manufacturers run into problems with heat dissipation. Dual core CPUs share the workload so they work more efficiently and run cooler.


In the real world most people use their PCs to do one job at a time -- word processing, spread sheets, web surfing, picture and video editing and so on -- and a Dual Core CPU won’t make a great deal of difference. However, when PCs is made to do several things at once, download a movie, edit a home video or play a fast action game, for example, a Dual Core CPU can improve performance, and they have an important role to play in laptops, where cooling can be a problem. Dual Core CPUs are becoming cheaper and software applications that take advantage of the technology are starting to appear but unless you are a ‘power user’ I would opt for an ordinary Windows XP multimedia PC. They do most routine tasks well and there are some amazing bargains to be had at the moment.




Replacing iPod Batteries

The battery on my aging iPod now only lasts for a couple of hours but having it replaced by Apple costs almost as much as a new player. Is this something I could do myself?

Mike Bentley


A. It depends; iPod batteries are not supposed to be user-replaceable but on some models it is very straightforward. They are available from companies like Maplin Electronics and MP3 Essentials; prices start and under £20 and they come with detailed instructions.



Wireless Interference

At least one of my neighbours has wireless broadband. What is to stop them from interfering with my system, and what happens when everyone has it?

Allan Taylor, by email


A. Of even greater concern is an unsecured wireless network that would allow someone in the vicinity to hack into your PC and make use of your Internet connection. To avoid this happening make sure that your system’s WEP or WPA (Wired Equivalent Privacy/Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption facilities are enabled.


Wi-Fi devices operate over a relatively short range and avoid interference from adjacent systems by switching channels. In practice your setup is far more likely to suffer interference to and from the multitude of wireless devices (cordless phones, mice, keyboards etc.) and microwave ovens.




Disposing of old PCs

I have two old computers, dating from the mid 1990s that I want to get rid of. I can’t even give them away; my local charity shop says it no longer accepts PCs and neither of my local primary schools is interested in them. They are in excellent condition and I believe still in working order. Surely someone can make use of them?

Helen Wright, by email


A. I wouldn’t mind betting that you paid the thick end of £1000 for each of them but such is the pace of development that PCs more than three or four years old are practically worthless. Nevertheless, it’s worth having a look at the IT For Charities website, which lists organisations around the country that recycle and reuse old computer hardware. However you dispose of your old PCs you should erase all of the programs and data on the hard disc drives, either by reformatting -- and you can do this with a Windows 95/98 Recovery Disc -- or by using a freeware utility called Active KillDisc. This wipes the drive and then fills it with random characters making any attempt at data recovery practically impossible.




© R. Maybury 2006 0409


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