There are two fire extinguishers in my home, and I replace both when they become out of date, even though I’ve never used them. Believe me, the cost of keeping them in order is a bargain when you need a fire extinguisher. There are virtual fire extinguishers for computing. Like the real ones, they are seldom used. But when they are needed, there’s no substitute. I’ll put on my brimmed fire chief’s hat and take a look at some high-tech fire extinguishers I want you to have around the computer room. If you’re lucky, you’ll never need them.
We’ll start with something called “restore points”, a built-in feature of Windows. Basically, it returns the computer to a point in the past when everything was working fine. See how to use it at ‘tinyurl.com/253en’
Backups: If you’re not regularly backing up the data in your computer, you are walking around with a “kick me” sign on your back. Hard disks die—it’s guaranteed if you use them long enough. My recommendation: Get a brand-name external hard disk and set it up to automatically back up your computer at least once a week. Vista has built-in software for this.
Rescue software: Sooner or later, you will delete the wrong file and empty the trash prematurely. Or an important file will be damaged. Or your hard disk will malfunction, leaving important files beyond reach. There are programs—some free—that can help. Here are some links:
UPS:Once limited to business users, it is now fairly common in most homes. If the power goes out, your UPS furnishes enough steam to allow you to save the data on your computer and shut it down. It also protects your computer against bumps in the voltage or brief brownouts. I connect my router and DSL modem to my UPS. That way, a blip in power doesn’t knock me offline.
UPS, Part 2: If your UPS is more than three years old, the battery is probably on its last legs. Either replace the battery or buy a new UPS.
Junk box: Try to keep some spare ethernet cables, USB cables, a mouse, a video card you’ve discarded and other potential replacements at hand. Computers have an amazing knack for going out when no help is available and when you really must finish a project. Your junk box is your friend.
An old computer: Most of us replace PCs many times. The old computer is worth almost nothing as far as cash value. But, as a temporary replacement late on a Sunday afternoon when computing work must be done, it’s priceless. Besides having a workhorse ready to go, you avoid any potential dangers of having others grab your data off a discarded PC’s hard disk.
Disks and manuals: It’s only when a hard disk crashes that most of us discover a program disk is missing. So, take stock of them occasionally. Finally, it would not be crazy to include a real fire extinguisher in your computing room. After all, not all fires occur in the virtual world.
©2008/ The New York Times
Partygoers, rejoice! The Nokia N78, Nokia’s latest multimedia phone, has a built-in FM transmitter that allows you to share your favourite whale-call-based dance tracks with the group over the home stereo or car radio. Then, when your friends kick you out, its integrated GPS mapping gets you home. The phone also plays back MP3s and includes an FM radio tuner and a system for streaming live radio from the Internet. It has a 3.2 megapixel camera that geotags photos with the help of the GPS, and another camera on the front for making video calls. The N78 is 4 inches long and weighs about 3.5 ounces. It has tiny black buttons below the 2.4-inch screen that are almost invisible—until the phone is activated and they glow with a bright white light. The unlocked phone, available at nseries.com or at Nokia stores, works on any GSM network worldwide.
©2008 / The New York Times