Ask Rick 171 17/09/11
Uni Lateral Thinking
My daughter will shortly be travelling to the
USA to begin a four-year University course. I wonder whether it would be best
for her to buy a laptop when out there so that it has the right voltage, or
should we buy one here in the UK and she take it with her? Also, she has said
that she would prefer a Mac, rather than a PC laptop, though I think her desire
is style driven rather than based on functionality?
Michael Rackham, by email
At the moment PC prices are more or less the
same on both sides of the Atlantic and mains voltage isn’t an issue as all
laptops come with universal chargers that work just about anywhere. In fact the
only significant difference between PCs sold in the UK and US is the keyboard.
For example, on a US keyboard the @ symbol is Shift + 2, and there is no £
symbol so you have to use the shortcut Alt + 0163, but it’s not a big problem
and most users adapt quite quickly. However, the balance tips slightly in
favour of buying locally, in the US when it comes to getting a laptop repaired
or replaced, whilst she is there and it is still under warranty.
I’m not going to get into the well-worn Mac vs.
PC argument, apart from saying that in general there’s more choice and you get
more bangs for your buck (or pound) with a PC. Apart from that it makes little
or no difference for routine tasks like word processing, emailing, web surfing
and accessing social networks but if it is to be used for course work then it is
worth finding out if she will be using software that might steer her towards a
PC or Mac.
Bank On It!
recently been given an iPod Touch and it seems possible that it may save me
carrying a laptop on shorter trips abroad as it will let me do a small number
of banking transactions. However I worry about security as there is no sign of
an anti-virus program and the subject doesn't seem to get discussed. Is the
Apple approach to apps responsible for this difference from Windows, and how do
other makes of tablet computers deal with the problem?
Gorham, by email
iPod Touch is virtually immune to viruses and malware but it would be very
unwise to use it for online banking. The weak link is the wireless connection
and data sent to and from your iPod can be intercepted, especially if you are
connected to an insecure or spoof Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s the same for all devices
and operating systems using a Wi-Fi connection, and never, ever, use Internet
cafes for this sort of thing. The only relatively safe way to access your bank
account when you are out and about is via a mobile broadband 3G connection, on
a tablet computer or smart phone or laptop, notebook or netbook with a 3G
dongle or whilst securely tethered to a 3G smart phone. However, remember all
portable devices are easily lost or stolen so do not use them to store PINs,
passwords or personal information.
a laptop with Windows and have a 1Tb external hard drive for storage of photos,
music, and backups from the laptop. I
intend to switch to an Apple Mac but will my hard drive then be redundant? Will I be able to access the data already on
it and add new data from the Apple?
Brown, via email
short answer is that it can be done, but there are a couple of ifs and buts.
Macs (OS X onwards) can read and write to drives formatted using the FAT32
system, but the chances are your external drive is NTFS formatted, which is
proprietary to Microsoft, and not fully supported by Apple. The Mac should be
able to read media files stored on the drive but if you want to use it the
other way around, to write Mac files or use it for backup then you will either
need to reformat the drive on the Mac or use a third-party utility like MacFUSE
(http://goo.gl/L3kua, freeware) or NTFS for
Mac (http://goo.gl/HRhQ, $19).
trying to change our Internet provider. The operator was really unwilling to
supply us with a MAC number and cut us off three times. The last time we did
it, it took at least 6 weeks before we had our Internet connection back up and
running. We had hoped that in this day and age the switchover could be carried
out almost instantly.
Ashley, by email
Ofcom rules ISPs are supposed to supply a MAC or Migration Authorisation Code
with 5 days of a request but some of them are better at it than others. It’s
not a complicated process and basically involves the right person pressing a
few keys. If you are kept waiting beyond the 5 days keep pestering, and it
won’t hurt to mention that if they don’t comply in a timely fashion you will
discuss the matter with Ofcom. You can make it easier next time by requesting
your MAC code before you switch providers; in most cases the code is valid for
up to 30 days. There are some useful phone numbers, email contacts for most of
the leading UK broadband suppliers, plus some helpful advice and a lot of tales
of woe from fellow migrators on the maccode.org.uk website.
Help! I have just deleted some important files
and then emptied my Recycle Bin. I thought I had saved them to a flash drive
but discovered too late that I had not done so. Is there any was I can recover
Carl Dores, by email
When you delete files on a PC all that happens
is the reference to them is removed from the drive’s table of contents. The
actual files remain intact, though the space that they occupy is marked as
free, so eventually they will be overwritten. Provided you don’t wait too long
there’s a fair chance they can be recovered. Try a freeware program called
Restoration; there’s a link to the download at: http://goo.gl/rfgEF
© R. Maybury 2011 2908