The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 100 13/09/08


No Fan of Loud Laptops

I have a laptop PC and the constantly whirring fan is driving me nuts. It is distracting when trying to listen to music or anything else with sound, or just trying to work quietly.  I do not expect there is anything I can do about it but I believe these products should come with a noise rating.  If I buy another laptop how do I know how quiet it is?

David Sargent, by email


This is a growing problem and as laptops become thinner designers find it harder to circulate cooling air, so the fans have to work really hard. Nevertheless, most models are reasonably quiet when they are brand new but fan noise often increases as time goes by. This is due to the narrow airways becoming clogged with dust, hair and biscuit crumbs, so the fan has to stay on longer and run faster to dissipate the heat. If this is happened to your machine try using an air duster’ (a can of compressed gas,) to blow through the vents and grilles. They are available at most computer stockists and stationers.


Noise can also be transmitted and amplified by whatever the laptop is resting on. It will sound louder on a flimsy thin-topped desk, compared with a thicker one, for example. You may find a simple rubber mat, or a couple of mouse mats can help dampen the sound; just make sure it doesn’t obstruct the cooling vents. The bearings on cooling fans also get noisier as they get older, especially on well-used machines. However they can be expensive to replace and on some models it could be more than it is worth.


As for finding out how loud a laptop is before you buy, relatively few manufactures quote meaningful noise figures and direct comparisons are difficult so let your ears decide; pop along to your local PC superstore to audition a few machines. 



Parallel Bars

I have been trying to draw basic street maps with MS Paint but I have found it impossible to draw the parallel lines needed for roads. Is there any way of making the brush or pencil function draw parallel lines?

Mark Clemence, by email


Not as far as I am aware though there is a simple kludge you can try. Drawn your road layout then click the Freeform Selection tool and closely outline the design. Now hold down the Ctrl key and drag the box a few millimetres diagonally and this create a duplicate, slightly offset and parallel with the original. Try it with small sections, rather than the whole map, and this will help to reduce the amount of tidying up you have to do.  


It’s certainly possible with more advanced drawing programs like PhotoShop and there’s a simple technique to turn thick lines into parallel lines in Corel Draw and PaintShop Pro, see the tutorial at: http://tinyurl.com/6ngkps. It may even be possible to adapt this for other programs.



Searching for an Answer

As good as Google, Yahoo & Co may be, lots of times I just want to see if a company has a website but often the name of the company I'm looking for is not that unusual and others may have already claimed it for other websites. Is there a search engine that will first search for, then list relevant URLs and website names before then listing all the other links for that name?

Jim Hyde, Lismore, Co Waterford. Ireland


Not as such. Most search engines work on keywords, relevant links or specialise in a particular subject but one way of getting straight to a site is to do a ‘whois’ lookup. Simply go to http://www.whois.net/, tap in the name and it displays links and links to all domain variants (i.e. .com, .org, .co.uk, .net, .tv, etc.) of that name.



Reducing Your Profile

I use Windows XP Professional and when I switch on my computer it displays ‘Hardware Profile Recovery Configuration Recovery’ menu, I then have the option to select either 1 or 2 but if I do nothing it continues with the normal start up process. Windows then operates normally. Please advise.

Sandy Geyer, by email


A Hardware Profile is an advanced configuration option that allows you to set up your PC to work with different peripherals at different times. It’s mostly of interest to laptop owners who use their computer in different locations. This warning message appears because your computer has two profiles, so if you are not using this facility you might as well switch it off. Press Winkey + Break, (or go to Start > Control Panel > System) to open System Properties. Select the Hardware tab and click the Hardware Profiles button at the bottom. Normally Profile 1 is the default, so highlight that, click the Properties button and uncheck  ‘Always include this Profile is selected…’. Click OK, highlight and Remove any other Profiles then make sure ‘Select the first profile…’ is selected, and for good measure set the time delay box to 0 seconds, click OK and that’s the last you’ll see of it.





© R. Maybury 2008 1808


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