Houston We Have a Problem... 041 30/06/07


Sharing A Broadband Connection

My home office PC has a broadband connection and I would like to be able to share it with the computer in our sonís room, on the floor above. If this were possible would we have to pay for it? How do we link his computer to ours and will we have to run cables from our office up the stairs to his room?

Joanna Lamiri, by email


Yes you can share your broadband connection using a simple home network. No you wonít have to pay for it, though you may need to buy some extra kit, and no you wonít need any cables.


You should get a wireless or ĎWi-Fií modem/router, and prices start at around £50. Your existing office PC connects to the Internet as normal through the device and your sonís PC links to it through a wireless connection. Most recent laptops have built-in Wi-Fi adaptors, otherwise you will need to buy one for each PC or laptop (they plug into a USB socket) and these cost around £20. With this sort of arrangement you can switch your office PC off when it is not in use and your son will still be able to access the Internet.


The only potentially tricky part is configuration and for this you will need the ĎUsernameí and password assigned to you by your ISP, however, most recent wireless router packages are designed for novices and providing all of the PCs in your home network use Windows XP setup is usually fairly painless. One last word of caution, itís important to switch on the routerís encryption system to protect your network



Protecting Word Documents

I work in three locations and have two desktops and a laptop. All contain numerous Word documents, many of which I have password-protected due to sensitivity. I back up all my files into three separate folders on a USB stick. However, I cannot find a way to protect either the entire folders or the USB stick via a password in case of loss. Any thoughts?

J. A., by email


You should encrypt your documents. This facility is built into Office XP and Office 2002 onwards (see http://tinyurl.com/2bu44v). Windows XP Pro also has a file encryption utility but this isnít compatible with XP Home. However, for the simplest all-round solution I suggest a freeware program called Cryptainer Mobile, which is included with Cryptainer LE (http://tinyurl.com/qp9t). This creates a Ďcontainerí folder on your PCís hard drive, or memory stick and any file you put inside the folder is protected by powerful 128-bit encryption. If you do lose it then only the most well-resourced spooks and villains will be able to read your files.



To Upgrade or Not, That is the Question

Earlier this year I purchased an Acer laptop with Windows XP Media Centre, I was also given a Windows Vista Home Premium Express Upgrade Disk. I have not installed this disk yet as I have been told there have been some problems with Vista. Would you consider it safe to install this disk now?

Chris Kenny, by email


The Vista launch actually went quite smoothly through there have been a few glitches with programs and peripherals not being updated in time (or at all). Nevertheless, in general I do not recommend upgrading operating systems.


It is far better to start with a clean slate and a freshly formatted drive otherwise corrupt system files, viruses and so on can be carried across to the new installation. Some programs may not work without updates and there is a small chance it could all go horribly wrong if, for example, there was a power cut during a critical stage of the lengthy upgrade process, so why risk it? 


With Vista you also have to ask if the machine was designed for the new operating system, or is merely Vista compatible? If itís the latter then you may be disappointed by the performance. Vista is very demanding, particularly when it comes to CPU speed, memory and graphics capabilities and in my view at this early stage it is better to have it pre-installed and fully road-tested on proven hardware, rather than gamble with an upgrade.



Knit And Scratch

I am a knitwear designer and like to store images of my work on CDs for future reference and publicity. As luck would have it, I managed to scratch one of the CD's. Is there a way to fix this?

Pia Alder, Marbella


There are a number of CD/DVD 'Repair' kits on the market, which use mildly abrasive polishing gels and creams to remove light scratches and scuff marks. Deeper scratches are more difficult, though, and if you have no luck with a kit then I have a do-or-die remedy that you try entirely at your own risk.


I have managed to restore numerous badly scratched PC and video game discs using Brasso metal polish, a soft cloth and a lot of elbow grease. Concentrate on the area of the scratch with a firm circular motion, be patient, it may take several sessions to remove it sufficiently for it to play. Only try this as a last resort, and itís vitally important that you remove all traces of the polish and buff the disc before you load it in your PC. If it works then copy the data to another your hard drive or another disc ASAP!




© R. Maybury 2007 1106


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