Ask Rick 144 12/03/11
Of Mice and Macs
In November 2009 I bought a new iMac, which
came with a wireless Magic Mouse. It was fitted with a pair of AA batteries and
within four months a message came on to the screen advising that the mouse
power was about to cease, which it did a few minutes later. I replaced them and
within 4 - 5 months two pairs of batteries had expired. In the past 14 months I
have used five sets of batteries. Is this battery use excessive or am I making
a fundamental procedural error in my use of the iMac?
Roger Mundy, by email
In fact you are doing quite well and many Mac
users find that their mouse batteries last only a few weeks. Battery life
largely depends on use and 2-3 months is about right for a PC that’s used for a
few hours each day. More expensive Lithium or Duracell batteries will usually
last a little longer but in the end the only way to reduce running costs or
avoid constant replacement or is to switch to rechargeable batteries (though
the running times will usually be shorter than non-rechargeables), or replace
the Mac mouse with a third-party model that uses rechargeables and comes with a
With our 7 year old Hitachi TV, I was able to
plug in my Sennheiser earphones and listen to programmes while my wife could
have the TV volume set at a level to suit her more acute hearing -- result, happiness. With our new LG flat
screen TV, however, plugging in the earphones makes the TV output mute --
result, misery. Have you any suggestions?
Robin Sturrock, by email
Most modern TVs have a separate unmuted,
line-level audio output, either via a pair of phono/RCA sockets (usually
coloured red and black/white), or a connection on one of the SCART sockets.
Phono to jack and SCART to jack adaptors are available from companies like
Maplin. However, if you connect this directly to your earphones you’ll have no
control over the volume so you also need a headphone amplifier, like the Btech
BT928 (around £30 http://goo.gl/EiLL3) or
Keene Harmony (around £55, http://goo.gl/TwfWG)..
Is RAID The Answer?
If I add a second hard disk to my Windows XP
desktop PC, is it difficult to set up a RAID configuration and will this be
advantageous on a home PC?
G Ayrey, Welwyn Garden City
RAID or Redundant Array of Independent Discs is
a way of splitting and saving files across multiple hard drives. It can be an
efficient way to store very large volumes of data, helping speed up access and
improving a system’s reliability. It’s certainly worth considering on so-called
‘mission critical’ applications where a heavily used PC contains a lot of large
and important files, especially if the PC in question is a server in a network and
accessed by multiple users. It’s harder to justify on a home PC where normal
backup routines should be more than adequate to protect valuable files. There
are many different types of RAID and the set-ups normally used on SOHO (small
office, home office) PCs – known as RAID 0 and RAID 1 -- are rarely worth the
effort. It’s questionable that there will be any noticeable improvement in
performance or reliability and recovery from a failed RAID installation can be
very difficult indeed.
Wired or Wireless
I have a new 64-bit Windows 7 desktop PC, a
laptop and a netbook (both Windows XP). The desktop is connected by wire to a
Belkin router and the laptop and netbook connected by wireless. I need to get a
new printer and want all machines linked to it. Because of space problems the
printer will be in a separate room to the computers. I saw a printer in PC World but its instructions said that a
network must be either wired or wireless but not both.
P Danson, by email
Wireless printers should be accessible to all
of the PCs connected to your home network, whether by cable or wireless. As far
as the network is concerned it is just another device, however, some early
models were notoriously difficult to set up and could be intolerant of mixed
wired and wireless networks. Most recent models should be okay but I would
avoid any that specifically warn against this type of setup, and also make sure
that it is compatible with 64-bit Windows 7.
Lost In Space
My HP computer is telling me that my Recovery
Drive is running out of space. How do I stop this happening?
Derek Cavalier, by email
Normally the Recovery Drive or D: partition is
quite small and only used for files needed to re-install Windows and System
Restore checkpoints but a lot of owners also use it to store their own data
files and automated backups, so it soon fills up. By this stage the C: drive is
usually running out of space as well so all you can do is fit a slave drive –
if you are using a desktop PC -- or if you have a laptop or don’t like the idea
of fiddling around inside your computer, connect an external hard drive. Copy
your data files from the D: partition to your new drive then change the drive
letter in Microsoft Backup. Once you’ve checked the copied files ate okay and
carried out a full backup you can delete the originals on the D: partition. Do
not delete any files you are not sure about or anything associated with the HP
Recovery utility, which includes files called Recovery, $Recycle Bin, Boot, HP, PC-Doctor,
PCDR or Preload.
I normally use my laptop on mains power and
leave it plugged in. I have heard conflicting opinions as to the advisability
of leaving the mains charger switched on or off. Which is best?
Margaret Maund (Mrs), by email
As you leave it running on mains power all of
the time the battery won’t ever discharge, so there’s no point is leaving the
charger plugged in when you are not using the computer as even in this state it
will be consuming a small amount of power. Lithium Ion laptop batteries typically
last 3 or 4 years, whether you use them or not, maybe a little longer if you
allow them to fully discharge once or twice a month.
© R. Maybury 2011 0702