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Get the most from your computer

PC Rescue Newsletter July 2008

A blast from the past! The Y2k bug bites some Mac users. We always knew something to do with Y2K would bite us when we least expected and, eight years after the hype, it has bitten a few Microsoft Office for Mac users. We describe it below and explain how you can avoid similar problems in whatever system you use.

One of the ways to avoid problems is to keep your computer up to date with the latest patches and service packs. Having seen two serious spyware infections this month, we can't emphasise enough how important updating your system is.

But before you can update your computer, you have to buy one. So we kick off this month's newsletter with a word about the hidden cost of running technology.

The real cost of computers

We tend to pay attention to the ticket price of a computer but we never look at the whole costs. Like cars, the purchase price is only a small part of the equation. Buying a computer is only the start of the journey.

Upfront costs you need to consider are new printers, along with another trip to the shop for the cable that wasn't included. Software as programs like Microsoft Office are rarely included in a new machine although many computers come with trial editions. Not to mention subscriptions to things like your antivirus program.

Ongoing costs such as printer consumables, paper, Internet access and, if you have teenagers, the cleanups after searches for free music go wrong, can add up to twice the purchase cost of your original computer. We'll have more on the website later this week and it's the topic of this month's 702 weekend spot.

Turning off your computers

One hidden cost of computers is the energy use. It's often underestimated how much energy computers use.

With the concerns about greenhouse gases and energy costs, any way you can save energy helps both the planet and your pocket. It's claimed that the typical computer user can save $80 a year by putting their computer into sleep mode when they aren't using it.

Computers Off Australia has been set up to help consumers and businesses manage the power IT equipment users. Their website includes useful information on reducing energy use, a calculator and a tool to help Windows users enable their computer's energy saving options.

Computer services

Need a computer tech? We can get technicians to help you with your home and office computer problems anywhere in Australia.

If you need a new computer set up, a virus removed or would just like to make sure your computer is running as it should be, we can help you.

Call 1300 798 957 and our call centre can arrange a visit or online service.

What can you do with an old computer

Once you've set up a new computer, there's the problem of getting rid of the old one. Computers contain all manner of environmental nasties so local councils are less than keen to see them going into landfill. If you are a Mac user then there's a healthy market in second hand machines, but Windows users can have a problem disposing of their old systems.

Some of the brand names have formal recycling programs and a few of the local shops will take the old one off your hands. The Recycling Near You website has a breakdown of all the recycling services in each local council area. Victorian readers can also use the Byte Back Australia computer recycling program.

Another issue of course is getting your data onto the new computer and wiping the old computer. Windows XP and Vista come with data migration tools and we recommend the Eraser program for wiping computers.

If you find this too difficult, you might want to contact a computer tech to help you transfer your data and securely erase your old machine.

Software of the month: Firefox 3

The new version of Firefox is proving to be a good addition to your computer. So far we haven't had many problems with it and it seems to be faster and less memory hungry than the previous version. We strongly pruning it instead of Internet Explorer. You can download it from the Firefox website.

One trap to watch is some of the plug ins for the older version of Firefox don't work on the new edition. Firefox will warn you about those the first time you run the machine. One of the most notable plugins that isn't compatible is the web site checking function of AVG 8.

Ask a question

Our sister website, IT Queries answers common computer problems.

If your computer has a frustrating problem, have a look for an answer at IT Queries. If you don't find one, just ask on the IT Queries site and we'll get a solution for you.


By now all AVG Free users should have upgraded to AVG 8. Apart from Grisoft not updating AVG Free 7.5, the new version has a lot more features.

One feature that is causing a bit of fuss is the site checking tool. This function plugs into both Firefox and Internet Explorer to run a check on websites as you view or search for them.

The problem is the plug in is not compatible with Firefox 3 and it will be disabled by the browser. It's also causing some fuss for webmasters who are finding it's pushing up their traffic volumes.

We'll be putting instructions on how to turn it off on our IT Queries site in the next few days.

Computer books

Who says you can't get a good computer manual? Our Dummies books are available online. If you want to learn more about your computer, we have the answers.

The current version of PCs for Dummies covers Vista computers and the earlier version covers Windows XP. So we can help you get the most from both versions of Windows.

Jargon of the month: TLD or Top Level Domain

A Top Level Domain is the last bit on an Internet address, that is the .com in or the .au in Until now these have followed the conventions set up in the early days of the net.

The people who control the Internet, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) have announced a new scheme where anyone with a lazy few hundred thousand US dollars can set up their own Top Level Domain.

For us humble net users, this is not a problem as we can't afford one of these things and they won't be appearing for at least 18 months.

It's highly unlikely any new top level domains will knock off the existing .com and domains. Newer domains such as .biz and .info have proved to be failures and it's highly unlikely most of the newer ones will succeed.

Speaking Services

PC Rescue's Managing director, Paul Wallbank, can help your business or community group get more from their technology. Contact us for more details

Topics include

Future office: Where will our offices be in twenty years time
The elder guru; exploding the myths of the digital divide.
Ten ways to revolutionise your business IT

What does it all mean? cutting through computer jargon.

Y2K bug comes back to life

A bizarre story appeared last week where in certain circumstances Entourage, Microsoft's email and contact manager for the Mac, will get confused by birthdates before 1950. It turns out to be a Y2K problem.

The bug stems from the Mac's date preferences and how Entourage reads them. If you used double digits rather than four digit dates, eg 12/08/08 rather than 12/08/2008 the problem can affect you.

Regardless of what program or system you use it's best to stick to using four digit years and month names such as 12 Aug 2008 when using spreadsheets to eliminate confusion between US and International date formats and reduce the possibility of these sort of problems.

Updating computers

A recent report found as few as 40% of computer users are running out of date web browsers. This isn't surprising when you work on computers for living and it's the quickest way for a computer infected with nasties.

You must keep your computer up to date. Windows users should visit the Windows Update website Mac users should click on the Apple icon in the top left corner of their screen and click on Software Update.

ABC Radio Spots

Our next Sydney 702 Weekend spot will be at 10am on July 6 where we'll be looking at the costs of a new computer. The next Nightlife is on Friday, July 18 at 10pm where we'll be talking about the new Internet domains.

If you'd like to offer any suggestions about topics or improvements to the shows please contact us.

Next month on the website

In July, the release of the iPhone is going to focus us more on data costs and mobile Internet. Related to this is the cost of roaming overseas with your mobile phone. We'll be looking at these issues in a lot more detail.

If you have a topic you'd like us to discuss on the websites, Smart Company blog or the radio spots please contact us.

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©Technology Publishing Australia, 2008