Houston We Have a Problem 11



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 charge cradle.   



Sharing Sound

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.



Power Points

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


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